Thursday, November 1, 2018

A Few Scary Movie Month Superlatives

by Rob DiCristino
Reflections on a spooky month well spent.

1. Favorite Performance in a New-To-Me Viewing
There are some strong candidates here, but no one is catching Abigail Hardingham as Holly in Nina Forever. Holly is a young grocery store clerk/EMT student crushing on Rob (Cian Barry), a co-worker who attempted suicide after the death of his girlfriend (the titular Nina, played by Fiona O’Shaughnessy), whose reanimated corpse appears between the sheets every time the fledgling couple tries to have some sexy time. On the page, Holly is naive and defiant, desperate to reimagine herself as a risk-taking rebel who’s willing to get a memorial Nina tattoo and even have the occasional blood-splattered three-way in the name of bringing the dead girl some peace. But it’s Hardingham’s performance — equally vibrant, insecure, sexy, and soulless — that adds the necessary layer of character and complexity to make Nina Forever the fascinating meditation on loss, compromise, and emotional growth it ends up being.

Honorable Mentions: Peter Cushing in Horror of Dracula, Candace Hilligoss in Carnival of Souls.

2. Favorite Revisit
As Adam discussed earlier this month, a revisit can often turn a movie we like into a movie we love. This year, that was Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator, which I’d seen several times but hadn’t truly dug into before watching Joe Bob Briggs’ presentation on The Last Drive In. I hadn’t considered the fact that Gordon and his crew came from the theater, that they’d meticulously rehearsed each scene for weeks before shooting a foot of film. With that in mind, I had a much greater appreciation for the staging of the action and the timing of the comedy. I was also clued into charming little seams in the story that I hadn’t noticed before, like how Dr. Hill (David Gale) seems to be telepathically controlling the other corpses (an element from an excised hypnotism subplot) and that the goofy Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) is technically the real, more active protagonist, not Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs).

Honorable Mentions: Lost Highway, Audition, Halloween II (2009).

3. Favorite Ensemble
This was a tough one, but I think I’m going with the murder party in Jeremy Saulnier’s Murder Party. There’s a certain joy to seeing a first-time filmmaker who not only embraces the limitations of his production budget, but actually builds those limitations into the story. Can’t afford a nice apartment? Make your protagonist (Christopher S. Hawley as Chris) a dumpy loner. Can’t afford buckets of blood? Save the biggest, most graphic kill for the end. This extends to economy of character, as well, since each obnoxious, over-privileged art student in the party (Macon Blair, Paul Goldblatt, Skei Saulnier, Stacky Rock, and William Lacey) adds an essential wrinkle to the ego-driven chaos that boils over into the last act. Most of the performances in Murder Party are rough around the edges – most of all Sandy Barnett, who doesn’t quite have the gravitas to sell Alexander -- but Saulnier manages to keep each actor well enough in their wheelhouse that only the best bits shine through.

Honorable Mentions: Hatchet, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Return of the Living Dead.

4. Favorite WTF
Perhaps you’ve heard of Vampire’s Kiss, the 1989 Robert Bierman-directed fever dream featuring a Nicolas Cage performance that spawned a thousand internet memes. There’s a longer thesis that could be (and probably has been) written on the social and political subtext of Cage’s Peter Loew, a fast-talking New York literary agent with an affected English (?) accent and an overinflated sense of self-importance. His devolution into (imagined?) vampiric madness is clearly -- under the surface, anyway -- an indictment of ‘80s corporate excess. On the surface, though, it’s just batshit insane. You can head to YouTube for a supercut of Cage’s more dramatic acting choices (“A! B! C!...”, “I never misfiled ANYTHING!”), but suffice it to say that Vampire’s Kiss exists on a very specific plane of metaphysical existence that perhaps only Cage can appreciate. Special recognition to Vampire’s Kiss for being the only movie I watched twice this month.

Honorable Mentions: Scream for Help, The Mangler, Nightbeast.

5. Favorite Monster, Scare, and Death
I’m going to cheat a little here and make a list: The three deaths that stand out most are the flaying of Anna (Tanya Allen) in my beloved Silent Hill, Shannon Permatteo’s (Patrika Darbo) de-jawing in Hatchet (a moment so audacious that I laughed out loud before replaying it), and, of course, Ferguson’s (Ben Meyerson) ass-pull in Society. Favorite monsters include “The Man” (director Herk Harvey) in Carnival of Souls, Mathilda May’s Naked Lady Space Vampire in Lifeforce, and Ella, the killer monkey in Monkey Shines (played by Boo). Some of my favorite scares were the end reveal in The Lords of Salem, Kendall’s (Ian Sera) involuntary castration in Pieces, and the final empty, haunting shots in John Carpenter’s Halloween. I always forget that’s how the movie ends! I watched it with friends who had never seen it, and while they took jabs at the stuff that hasn’t held up, even they admitted that those closing seconds were some of the scariest they’d ever seen.

Honorable Mentions: “The Rising Nurse” in Halloween II (1981) and anything Belial does in Basket Case.

What are some of your Scary Movie Month superlatives? Leave them in the comments.


  1. I also watched reanimator this month. I knew I was hooked after witnessing a dead cat get thrown across the room and splat against the wall.

    Revisiting Devil's Candy had me appreciate how visually striking and beautiful the film is. Also audibly compelling with a kick ass metal sound track used to great effect.

  2. 1.Leslie Nilson's performance in "Creepshow" suprised the hell out of me just because growing up he was always that stonefaced comedic actor I associated with parody films. Also shame on me for waiting 29 years to watch Creepshow!
    2. Favorite revisit was "A Nightmare on Elm Street". Being my favorite horror film, I havent watched it in a year or two, this viewing reinforced why I love it so much. Side note it also made me go back and listen to the FThisMovie podcast talking about the Elm Street franchise.
    My favorite new films from this year have to be "Hereditary" and "Mandy".
    Thanks again for another great #scarymoviemonth!

    1. Good call on Leslie Nilson! I always half expect him to start making a joke of the part, but he never does. He's dead serious and does a great job.

  3. I checked out Nina Forever after the conversation on the Silent Hill episode and couldn't agree more! It really worked for me. The thumbnail shot you chose for this piece is one of several "laugh out loud" moments & Abigail Hardingham reminds me of the English Joey King.

  4. 1. Favorite Performance in a New-To-Me Viewing - Vincent Price in Witchfinder General

    2. Favorite Revisit - The Evil Dead (1981)

    3. Favorite Ensemble (in a new to me film) - Taste the Blood of Dracula

    4. Favorite WTF - Pretty much all of Apostle (2018)

    5. Favorite Monster, Scare, and Death

    Monster - Michael in Halloween (2018)

    Scare - Possessed Linda singing in The Evil Dead

    Death - Dracula's death in Horror of Dracula

    Thanks to everyone for a great Scary Movie Month!

  5. Favorite Performance: Bela Lugosi as Ygor in Son of Frankenstein (1939); Honorable mention to Peter Cushing in Twins of Evil (1971)

    Favorite Revisit: The Whip and the Body (1964)- The beauty of the restored version on Amazon Prime (Double Doses of Horror package) amazed me.

    Favorite WTF: The end of The Beyond (1981)

    Favorite Ensemble: The House that Screamed (1970)

    Favorite Monster: The Were-Rabbit in Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005).
    Death: Joe the Plumber in The Beyond
    Scare: Christopher Lee coming out of the darkness in The Whip and the Body

  6. Favorite performance: Jeffrey Combs in Re-Animator - PERFECT CASTING. Nobody even comes close. Runner Up: Stephen Geoffreys as Evil Ed in Fright Night (1985).

    Favorite Revisit: Predator (1987) - Let's be honest - No matter how hard they try to label this movie Sci-Fi, in it's story structure - it's really just a slasher film - except that it's a slasher film with memorable characters, good dialogue, excellent pacing, genuine tension, a script that has it's characters NOT behave like idiots and do the RIGHT THING and yet still get smoked by their well armed, well prepared adversary, ACTUAL BONAFIDE MOVIE STARS and a very thrilling ending where you really don't know if the main macho character makes it out alive the first time you see it. Best scene: The bit near the end where the final alpa male (fully camouflaged and holding a primitive torch) shouts out a bellow of rage to tell his adversary that yep, I'm still here and I'm not going anywhere in order to lure the predator into his trap.

    Favorite WTF: The abrupt ending to American Werewolf in London (1981) - I mean, is that it? Runner Up: Johnny Depp getting sucked into his bed which then erupts in a geyser of blood in Nightmare On Elm Street (1984). Was his entire body composed of fluid only?

    Favorite Ensemble: American Werewolf In London (1981) - It works so well because the straight laced Brits play it serious while the yanks treat the whole thing as a sarcastic joke - until the moon becomes full ...
    Runner Up: Cabin In The Woods (2012)

    Favorite Monster: The Xenomorph in Alien (1979). Runner Up: King Kong (1933).

    Favorite Death: Deep Blue Sea (1999): It's when the guy who looks like Nick Fury delivers a rousing speech meant to calm people's nerves and then ...
    Runner Up: Bradley Whitford meets a merman in Cabin In The Woods (2012).

    Scare: Jaw(1975): Hooper dives into the water to search a wrecked boat. Hooper finds what's left of the previous occupant. Hopper surfaces and makes an observation on the size of the boat needed to catch the shark.
    Runner Up: The bit in American Werewolf in London (1981) where the two yank backpackers realize they're being stalked by something ("There's no coyotes in England!") while a horrible howling sound grows ever nearer and near...