TV

Favorite Things: Best of 2019

As another year ends, it’s time for me to reflect on my favorite pieces of horror entertainment. It’s been another amazing year for horror, making it incredibly difficult to narrow down what I thought was the best. From movies to books to music to events, here are all of my best horror of 2019 selections!

BEST MOVIES OF 2019 (Note: I have two #1 films as I couldn’t choose between them)

10. Sweetheart

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I had a really hard time choosing between a few films to take this spot on my list, but ultimately Sweetheart stuck with me more than the others. Released on Netflix just before the end of the year, this film by J.D. Dillard brings together the thrills of an aquatic monster film with the deeper message of a social commentary film. I wish Blumhouse had done a bit more to get the word out about Sweetheart. It has great creature design/effects, a strong performance from Kiersey Clemons, and sends an important message. Full review here.

9. Harpoon

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This film surprised me because the three characters are so unlikeable! Normally this ruins a film for me because there isn’t anyone to root for, but it worked in Harpoon. Instead of rooting for someone to survive, we could all relish in their darkly humorous demise. The small setting on a boat adds to the tension of being trapped with people you hate and the performances from all three leads are wonderful to watch. Full review here.

8. Happy Death Day 2U

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It was hard to imagine there was any way to make a sequel to Happy Death Day. Yet writer/director Christopher Landon was able to double down and make a sequel that added to the mythos, injected even more humor, added some great sci-fi elements, and made the film have even more emotional depth. Plus, it’s impossible not to love Tree, played by Jessica Rothe. Full review here.

7. Crawl

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Everyone knows I’m a sucker for aquatic horror. Crawl was no exception. It drew from multiple fears people have including natural disasters, small spaces, and of course alligators. The film is very exciting and surprisingly gory, which is everything I could want from a killer gator film. Yet I believe the film held back just enough to keep it from getting too cheesy. Full review here.

6. The Perfection

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This was a film that caught me completely off guard. While watching for the first time, it shocked me again and again while also making me question what subgenre of horror it would end up fitting into. The many twists and turns, the unique format, and the overall plot made me fall in love with The Perfection. It may not work as well upon second watch, but I won’t forget how it felt watching it for the first time. Full review here.

5. Satanic Panic

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Satanic Panic is by far the funniest horror film I saw this year. I loved the play on the classic 80’s idea that the rich get rich by worshipping the devil. It allowed for some hilarious hijinks and fun practical effects. Plus, it’s impossible to not fall in love with the trifecta of badass female leads; Rebecca Romijn, Hayley Griffith, and Ruby Modine (especially Modine because she has the best dialogue). Full review here.

4. Tigers Are Not Afraid

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Writer and director Issa López truly created a powerful film with Tigers Are Not Afraid. It offers a unique glimpse into the lives of little kids surviving on the streets of Mexico, with an added supernatural element. The children acting in this film are absolutely fantastic. The balance of cartel violence, eeriness, and heartbreak tell a beautiful story that can appeal to even those who don’t enjoy horror. Full review here.

3. Daniel Isn’t Real

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This is a film with a plot that shouldn’t work on film. Yet Adam Egypt Mortimer not only made it work, but he create a beautiful film about trauma, mental illness, and inner demons. On top of having a great story, the film also has gorgeous visuals and superb performances from the two male leads. Daniel Isn’t Real is the kind of film that really takes an emotional toll and sticks with the audience long after it’s over. Full review here.

1. Doctor Sleep

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The more I think about it, the more I completely adore everything about this film. Mike Flanagan managed to write and direct what, in my opinion, might be the best Stephen King adaptation with Doctor Sleep. Not only did he bring the book to life, but Flanagan also managed to incorporate the film version of The Shining to appeal to fans of both the film and the books. The film really perfectly conveys trauma and addiction in a beautiful way, has fascinating characters, incorporates gorgeous visuals, and has a cast of amazing actors. Full review here.

1. Midsommar

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It might seem impossible to create an effective horror film drenched in daylight, but Midsommar does just that. Seeing truly horrific events unfold in the light and in a beautiful setting somehow makes everything more disturbing. Another emotionally driven film, the way writer and director Ari Aster is able to convey grief, trauma, and the longing for that feeling of “home” results in a memorable film experience. As someone who was once in a similar relationship as the one between Dani and Christian, I found the film to be especially cathartic to watch. Full review here.

HONORABLE MENTIONS (Films I watched, but didn’t review – no order)

Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror, Wounds, The Nightingale, Knife + Heart, Velvet Buzzsaw, Ready or Not

BEST HORROR SHORTS OF 2019

5. Road Trash – Written and Directed by Natasha Pascetta

4. Fanatico – Directed by Hannah May Cumming, Written by Hannah May Cumming and Sam Schrader

3. Hana – Written and Directed by Mai Nakanishi

2. Cemetery Song – Directed by Michelle Prebich, Animated by Justine Prebich

1. Finley – Written and Directed by J. Zachary Thurman

BEST FILM SCORES OF 2019

5. Tigers Are Not Afraid – Music by Vince Pope

4. Black Site – Music by Max Sweiry

3. Candy Corn – Music by Michael Brooker and Josh Hasty

2. Midsommar – Music by The Haxan Cloak

1. Satanic Panic – Music by Wolfmen of Mars

BEST TV SHOWS OF 2019

5. Creepshow S1 – Shudder

4. N0S4A2 S1 – AMC

3. Castle Rock S2 – Hulu

2. What We Do in the Shadows S1 – FX

1. Stranger Things S3 – Netflix

BEST BOOKS I READ IN 2019 (not necessarily released this year)

5. Osgood as Gone by Cooper S. Beckett

4. The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

3. My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

2. The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer (I know this is cheating since it’s 3 books, but it’s my list so I don’t care)

1. Lady From the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O’Meara

BEST EVENTS OF 2019 (no specific order)

  • Midsummer Scream
  • Portland Horror Film Festival
  • The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs on Shudder – including the holiday specials
  • Into the Dark on Hulu
  • Joe Bob Briggs Live: How Rednecks Saved Hollywood

 

 

Creepshow: Season 1 Episode 3

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This week brings another all new episode of Shudder’s hit series, Creepshow. While the first two episodes had tonally similar segments, either both being spooky or both being humorous, this episode brings viewers a bit more variety.

First up is a Halloween-inspired segment titled “All Hallow’s Eve.” Here the story follows a group of teens on Halloween night. They’re probably a bit too old to go trick-or-treating, but they claim it will be their last time. As the friends venture out to collect their treat, it becomes clear they are looking for more than just candy and the townspeople dread these trick-or-treaters. This fun little throwback is written by Bruce Jones (Deadly Nightmares, Masters of Horror) and directed by John Harrison (Dune, Tales From the Darkside: The Movie).

This first segment of episode 2 has a very nostalgic feel to it. The style looks like something out of the 90’s, as do the costumes worn by our trick-or-treaters. It gives the overall look and feel of an episode of Goosebumps or Are You Afraid of the Dark? While some viewers might not appreciate this style and prefer more of the effects heavy 80’s horror typically associated with Creepshow, I personally loved “All Hallow’s Eve.” It took me back to my childhood and delivers a great classic Halloween tale.

There aren’t many effects in this story, but the four teens deliver strong performances. “All Hallow’s Eve” stars Connor Christie (Missionary) as Pete, Madison Thompson (Henry Danger) as Jill, Jasun Jabbar Wardlaw Jr. (Black Lightning) as Binky, and Andrew Eakle (Crimetime) as Bobby. While all of them want this to be their last Halloween night, Pete and Jill are clearly the more mature of the group and rein the other two in while Binky and Bobby enjoy a bit of mischief. These kids all feel like normal every day teens, but they all do a great job of gradually showing why there is more than meets the eye.

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The second segment is “The Man in the Suitcase,” directed by Dave Bruckner (The Ritual, V/H/S) and written by Christopher Buehlman in his debut as a screenwriter. In this segment we meet a down on his luck college student. After accidentally taking home the wrong suitcase from the airpot, he discovers a man trapped inside. Even more bizarre is the man seems to cough up gold coins whenever he’s in pain.

Horror fans who are familiar with Bruckner’s films likely know his films tend to be very dark, atmospheric, and sometimes rather terrifying. “The Man in the Suitcase” is a huge departure from that, leaning more towards a dark comedic tone. What makes the story so compelling is it creates a scenario where the viewer is forced to think about what they would do in a similar situation. Would you free the man from the suitcase or would you inflict pain upon him in order to get rich on his gold coins?

While the entire cast does a great job, there are two clear standouts. Will Kindrachuk (Preacher, Boy Erased) stars as Justin. Justin is the one who finds the suitcase. Kindrachuk excels at portraying Justin as he grapples with his desire for the gold and his desire to be a good person. Opposite him is Ravi Naidu (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Homeland) as the man in the suitcase. From the unfortunate position his character finds himself in to the way he manages to exude pain in a darkly comical way, Naidu gives it his all in this performance.

It was nice to finally get two tonally different stories in a single episode of Creepshow. The series is truly showing a diverse range of tales that can appeal to many different types of horror fans. At times, the budgetary constraints of the show can be felt, but it still stays true to the look and feel of the film that inspired the series.

You can catch this episode of Creepshow today on Shudder.

Creepshow: Season 1 Episode 2

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After a successful first episode, it’s time for episode two of Shudder’s hit new series, Creepshow. This week features two tales that lean more towards the comedic side compared to what fans saw in episode one. The two stories told in this episode are “Bad Wolf Down” and “The Finger.” These are two very different tales, but each one is sure to deliver the laughs.

The episode starts with “Bad Wolf Down.” This segment is written and directed by Rob Schrab (Monster House, The Sarah Silverman Program). The plot follows a small band of American soldiers fighting Nazis in France during WWII. They are forced to retreat and take shelter in a small building that once served as the jail for the remote area. Inside the men find a French woman locked inside the jail cell. Yet this woman isn’t as helpless as she appears.

“Bad Wolf Down” definitely takes the audience back to 80’s b-horror films with clunky dialogue, overacting, and somewhat laughable practical effects. This is clearly a deliberate choice made by Schrab. It is an intentional cheesiness that creates a hilarious throwback for horror fans. The most humorous aspect is the dialogue. Much of what the soldiers say to each other is so over the top and stereotypical of what you might expect soldiers to say to each other. It’s almost impossible not to laugh.

Of all the actors in this segment, horror fans will immediately recognize Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator, From Beyond) as the vengeful Nazi commander, Reinhard. Combs is a gem and a great comedic actor, which leads me to believe his absolutely atrocious German accent is another purposeful choice to add to the humor. The other standout performances come from Dave MacDonald (Stranger Things, Doom Patrol) as Captain Talby, Scott “Kid Cudi” Miscudi (Need For Speed, Two Night Stand) as Doc Kessler, and Callan Wilson (A Mermaid’s Tale, All Hallow’s Evil: Lord of the Harvest) as Pvt. Rivers.

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So far, “Bad Wolf Down” has utilized the comic book style that normally bookends the stories more than any other segment. Some of this is more subtle, like including the blue and red backlighting fans will likely recognize from the first Creepshow film. Since this is a werewolf story, there is naturally a scene where the viewer is shown people transforming from a person to a wolf. Schrab and team wisely used the comic book style to show the transformation in an animated comic panel rather than blowing the budget on practical effects. It looks great, is smart and unique, plus it adds to the humor. The werewolves themselves are also a bit on the cheesy side, but each wolf has a really fun and individual look to them.

From there our beloved creep flips open a new comic for the second segment. This one is titled “The Finger.” Written by David J. Schow (The Crow, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre [2006]) and directed by Greg Nicotero (The Walking Dead), the story introduces viewers to a man named Clark. Clark likes to collect things other people would likely consider garbage. One day he finds a weird, shriveled up finger. He takes it home and realizes it is growing; first an arm, then an entire body. He names the strange creature Bob and cares for it, but Bob has a murderous way of showing his affection.

This is an absolutely laugh out loud story. “The Finger” stars DJ Qualls (Supernatural, The Core) as Clark. Clark is kind of a loner, so when Bob comes into his life he’s happy to care for the strange creature. Qualls’ performance is hysterical for two main reasons. First, he often breaks the fourth wall to talk directly to the audience, giving amusing commentary and summarizing events to save time. Second, he reacts to the bloody things Bob does the same way someone might react to their cat being annoying or bringing him a dead mouse. It is entirely relatable, but taken to such an unbelievable extreme it is sure to make viewers crack up.

“The Finger” also includes amazing practical effects. From the lone finger to the body that eventually grows out of it, Bob is a gross and creepy little creature that you also want to cuddle because he’s so cute. It is great creature design that fans are sure to remember as the series continues. On top of that, the little presents Bob brings home for Clark are also very well done. The entire episode is filled with fantastic practical effects, as one would expect in something directed by Nicotero.

Episode two of Shudder’s Creepshow took the series in a much more humorous direction. Both “Bad Wolf Down” and “The Finger” deliver laughs, although they are very different types of humor. On top of that, the performances are highly entertaining and the practical effects are delightful, even the somewhat hokier werewolves of “Bad Wolf Down.” Just like the first episode, be sure to look for the hidden Easter eggs in episode two, including a special quick cameo in “The Finger.”

The second episode of Creepshow will be available to stream on Shudder on Thursday, October 3rd. You can also watch it live on the Shudder channel at 9pm EST/6pm PST the same night.

Favorite Things: Best of 2018

TOP 10 HORROR FILMS

10. All the Creatures Were Stirring

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There are new Christmas horror films every year, and this is one of my favorite additions of the past decade. The anthology, written/directed by Rebekah and David Ian McKendry, has a little something for everyone and perfectly combines chills, laughs, and the holiday spirit. Click here for my full review.

9. Bird Box

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I had a difficult time choosing between Bird Box and A Quiet Place, but I thought this film was ever so slightly more well-put together. The film is thrilling while also pulling on the viewer’s heartstrings. What really elevates the film is the concept for the entities killing off the human race. Click here for my full review.

8. Overlord

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This film definitely surprised me. It is visually beautiful, has fantastic performances, and is as exciting as it his frightening. The filmmakers perfectly blend historical events with the horror genre in a way that catches the audience’s attention. Click here for my full review.

7. The Ritual

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The Ritual is dark, mysterious, and brings a depth to your typical lost in the woods subgenre of horror. The film uses gorgeous visuals to create a metaphor for grief and guilt. It also has some of the most beautiful creature design I’ve seen in a while. Click here for my full review.

6. Cam

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It’s not every day that sex work is portrayed in a way that is both realistic and non-negative. Cam does just that, plus it has a suspenseful horror twist that catches the viewer’s attention right up until the credits roll. Click here for my full review.

5. Suspiria (2018)

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This remake of Argento’s classic film brings audiences a new and hauntingly beautiful film. It boasts a compelling plot, outstanding performances, and some scenes of rather shocking brutality. The filmmakers definitely succeeded in honoring Argento’s film while also creating something new and unique. Click here for my full review.

4. Revenge

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Revenge is a film not talked about enough this year. The rape-revenge film, directed by Coralie Fargeat, truly brings something beautiful to the sometimes controversial subgenre of horror. It is visually stunning, has amazing performances, and has one of my favorite scores of the year. Click here for my full review.

3. Mandy

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This film was made for Nic Cage. It is insanity personified with amazing visuals, loads of carnage, and an amazing 80’s aesthetic. Cage shines in the role, and he delivers one of his most memorable performances to date. Click here for my full review.

2. Annihilation

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This scifi-horror genre bender is one of the most thought-provoking films of the year. It also has some of the best CGI effects of the past decade, creating an absolutely gorgeous film that is also terrifying in its own way. The female-driven film has it’s polarizing moments, but I loved every minute of it. Click here for my full review.

1. Hereditary

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Hereditary is the kind of horror film that is truly terrifying to me, and it is one of the scariest films I’ve seen in ages. It stuck with me long after the film ended. Toni Collette should win all the awards for her performance, and Alex Wolff held his own right along with her. This is the kind of film that you can watch again and again and still notice new details. Click here for my full review.

TOP 5 SHORT FILMS

  1. Wild
  2. What Metal Girls Are Into
  3. The Night Delivery
  4. Love Cuts Deep
  5. The Day Mum Became a Monster

TOP 5 TV SHOWS

  1. Channel Zero: The Dream Door
  2. Haunting of Hill House
  3. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
  4. American Horror Story: Apocalypse
  5. Ash vs. Evil Dead (ended in 2018)

TOP 5 HORROR EVENTS

  1. The Last Drive-In With Joe Bob Briggs – Shudder
  2. Diners of Death with Joe Bob Briggs – Shudder
  3. A Very Joe Bob Christmas – Shudder
  4. International Horror and Sci-fi Film Festival – Phoenix, AZ
  5. Into the Dark – Hulu

TOP 5 HORROR FILM SCORES

  1. Revenge – Rob
  2. Halloween (2018) – John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel Davies
  3. Suspiria (2018) – Thom Yorke
  4. Mandy – Jóhann Jóhannsson
  5. Summer of 84 – Le Matos

Favorite Things: Horror TV Shows (Still Running)

These days, horror TV shows seem to be more and more popular. Unfortunately, just like horror movies, they always get snubbed when the award shows come around. It seems only fitting that my first “Favorite Things” blog post be all about my favorite horror TV shows that are still on the air.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

This one is a fairly obvious choice, but it is just so damn good. I’m shocked every year that this is not nominated for some kind of award. The acting is amazing, it makes you afraid of humans and zombies, the practical effects are some of the best I’ve ever seen, and it never stops surprising me. That last bit may obviously be different if I had read the comics, but I haven’t so I get shocked from time to time. I just have one more word to help describe how great this show is… Daryl.

Season 6 returns Sunday, Febrauary 8th 9/8c.

Grimm (NBC)

This may be one of my favorite shows currently on TV. For those of you that haven’t seen it, the show focuses on a Portland detective who has some very interesting powers. He is what is called a Grimm, and he can see the fairytale creatures that no one else can see. Not only are the characters very compelling and likeable, but it is amazing how they weave together the stories that we grew up with and turn them into modern mysteries. They also do a great job of using the German language to name the various creatures, or Wesen, that they encounter on the show.

Airs Friday nights at 9/8c.

Penny Dreadful (Showtime)

I typically don’t mark a show as a favorite after only one season, but this is an exception to that rule. Penny Dreadful is twisted, and beautiful, and everything you could ever want from a horror show set in Victorian times. There is such masterful storytelling in this show that it is not immediately noticeable that this show incorporates some of the classic horror movie characters. The more obvious ones of Dr. Frankenstein and Dorian Gray, but if you watch and listen closely you will find the more hidden ones. The web is so tangled that at the end of the first season you have only just started to separate the threads. It is very upsetting that I have to wait until April for the second season to start!

Season 2 premieres Sunday, April 26th at 10e/p.

Teen Wolf (MTV)

This is a completely underrated show. I think just because it’s on MTV everyone assumes that it will be crap, but that is not the case at all. The show initially got the idea from the 1985 movie starring Michael J Fox. The only true similarity is that the two main characters/best friends are named after the characters in the movie, and the main character ends up being a werewolf. After that, everything goes completely off script. The characters are so dynamic, the script is witty and fascinating, and there is a new twist at every turn. Probably my favorite thing about the show is that they introduce all sorts of creatures from mythology around the world.

Right now the air date for season 5 is TBD, but I’m guessing it will be this Fall.

Bates Motel (A&E)

Freddy Highmore and Vera Farmiga are the perfect Norman and Norma Bates. Not only are they simply amazing actors, but they create this very uncomfortable codependency between the two characters that you can’t help but get hooked on. This show does a great job of giving you a bit of the story you already know and love, thanks to the great Alfred Hitchcock, but it also brings it to modern times and gives you more of the history of the infamous mother-son duo. This show also gives you that uncomfortable feeling of liking the two main characters while also being very disturbed by them for their own reasons.

Season 3 airs Monday, March 8th at 9/8c.

Face Off (SyFy)

I couldn’t find a trailer for the current season, so I chose the original teaser from when the show first started. Not many people will consider this a horror show, but I think it should be included on this list. The show is a competition series where you get to watch people create masterful works of art that you would see in your favorite horror/sci-fi/fantasy films and TV shows. I am kind of obsessed with practical effects, so this show is definitely one of my favorites. I love seeing the creative process the artists go through to create unique creatures from their imagination. Definitely worth watching.

Airs Tuesday nights at 9/8c.

That is my list of current favorite horror shows. I would like to give honorable mention to The Strain, Z Nation (which I have been binge-watching on Netflix all day today), Bitten, and Helix. The Strain is on FX, and the other three shows are on the SyFy channel. All of them have only had one full season so far, so it is too soon for me to add them to my favorites. Maybe they will make the list next year, but I would recommend checking them out as well.