The Hunger (1983)
“Are you making a pass at me, Mrs. Blaylock?” Loosely based on the novel by Whitley Strieber, The Hunger is a stylish erotic thriller directed by the late Tony Scott (Unstoppable), in his feature film debut, and featuring Catherine Deneuve (Repulsion), David Bowie (The Prestige), Susan Sarandon (The Witches of Eastwick) and a very young Willem Dafoe (Shadow of the Vampire) in one of his first screen appearances. A doctor (Sarandon), who specializes in research involving the aging process, encounters a murderous vampire couple (Deneuve and Bowie) and soon falls under the seductive spell of Deneuve’s character. The Hunger is a visually stunning and atmospheric piece that is both dark and glamorous in a style reminiscent of the music videos of the 1980’s. There is a slow and smoothly seductive tone to the movie, which features one of the most erotic seduction scenes ever seen on the big screen (between Deneuve and Sarandon). The film’s other strengths include the beautiful cinematography, the atmospheric score (including the enthralling opening sequence with Bauhaus performing Bela Lugosi’s Dead) and the strong performances (in particular Susan Sarandon as Deneuve’s tormented new lover). The film was not well received by the critics when it was first released. Since then The Hunger though has become a cult classic. The movie even spawned a short-lived television series with the same name. The Hunger was nominated for two Saturn Awards for Best Costumes and Best Make-up.
Night of the Demon (1957)
” You could learn a lot from children. They believe in things in the dark…” Based on a short story by M.R. James, Night of the Demon (AKA Curse of the Demon in the United States) is a British horror movie directed by French director Jacques Tourneur (Cat People) and featuring Dana Andrews (Laura) and Peggy Cummins (Gun Crazy). The film’s plot centers on an American psychologist (Andrews), who is a well-known debunker of paranormal phenomenon, and his investigation of a satanic cult and its charismatic leader, which may be responsible for sinister happenings including murder. There were numerous problems during the film’s production due to highly publicized fights between the producer Hal E. Chester and other members of the production company, including the director, screenwriter Charles Bennett and Dana Andrews. The producer even went over the head of the director (much to the dismay of the director, writer and star) and inserted images of the monster into the film, which the others felt took away from the scariness of the movie. Chester also had the movie edited down to 83 minutes to accelerate the pace of the movie and show it as a double bill in the United States. Despite these changes, The Night of the Demon still holds up as a horror classic—an understated supernatural tale where the director subtly uses shadows and atmosphere to chilling effect to build the suspense and terror. Modern critics are unanimous in their praise for the movie. Some fun trivia: Kate Bush’s song Hounds of Love includes dialogue from the film in the introduction: “It’s in the trees, it’s coming.” Night of the Demon is also one of the B-Horror movies cited in the song Science Fiction/Double Feature in the campy musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show: “Dana Andrews said prunes gave him the runes, and passing them used lots of skills.” Martin Scorsese included the movie on his list of the 11 scariest horror films of all-time.
In 2000, Ju-on was originally released as two low-budget straight-to-video Japanese television movies. Due to the surprise success of these videos, director Takashi Shimizu made a theatrical version Ju-on: The Grudge, released in 2002. The film’s story focuses on a haunted house with a horrific past, vengeful ghosts and a powerful curse. Anyone who enters the home and encounters the vengeful spirits is cursed and suffers horrible consequences. The movie’s plot is divided into six short interconnecting vignettes, which focus on characters that encounter the curse. The movie is an atmospheric and suspenseful series of ghost stories intricately woven together, which keeps the audience on their toes with each creepy ghostly encounter. The sequel entitled Ju-on 2 (Ju-on: The Grudge 2) was released in 2003. Equally scary is the American remake The Grudge released in 2004 and also directed by Takashi Shimizu. This version features Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as a social worker who comes to the house to care for an elderly woman. The cast also includes Jason Behr, Clea DuVall and Bill Pullman. Though based on Ju-on: The Grudge, the American version features scenes re-enacted from the other Ju-on movies. The movie was not well received by most critics when it was released, but it did very well at the box office, grossing over 180 million worldwide and making it the second highest grossing horror remake of the past 40 years behind The Ring. The Grudge also received a number of award nominations, including a Saturn Award for Best Horror Film. Nominees that year included Dawn of the Dead and Saw with the award going to Shaun of the Dead. Don’t bother with The Grudge 2.
I’m Not Scared (2003)
Based on a successful and acclaimed novel by Niccolo Ammaniti, this Italian thriller is directed by Gabriele Salvatores (Mediterraneo) and is loosely based on a true story of a kidnapped boy from Milan during the anni di piombo (a time noted for terrorism and kidnappings in the 1970’s in Italy). The movie takes place in 1978 during an exceptionally hot summer in a small Italian seaside village. While out playing, a nine-year old boy discovers another boy, lying shackled at the bottom of a hole, and uncovers an evil ransom scheme. The movie is a chilling tale about the loss of innocence. The director delivers a stunningly detailed period piece and effectively builds the suspense throughout the film right up until the exciting climax. The movie’s other strengths include the stunning cinematography and the strong performances by the large cast, especially Giuseppe Cristiano who plays the main character and had no previous acting experience. In fact, most of the actors in the movie were locals with no film experience. The movie was very well received when it debuted at the Berlin Film Festival. Within two days after the screening, thirty-two countries had purchased the rights to the film, including Miramax, which released the film to North American audiences and over a million at the box office. I’m Not Scared was also nominated or won many prestigious international film awards.
“Television is reality, and reality is less than television.” Set in Toronto in the early 1980’s, Videodrome is a Canadian horror movie written and directed by David Cronenberg (The Dead Zone) and featuring James Woods (Vampires), Sonja Smits (Street Legal) and Deborah Harry (Hairspray). A president of a cable televisions station (Woods), having grown dissatisfied with his station’s current programming, is looking for something new and revolutionary. He, however, gets more than he bargained for when he is introduced to a broadcast signal that features a show of unknown origin specializing in torture and murder. Soon, Woods’ character is drawn into a bizarre and twisted conspiracy where the line between reality and television blurs into mind control and strange organic hallucinations. The movie is a powerful and disturbing look at the early stages of reality television and its potential dangerous consequences if taken too far. When it was first released, the movie was not well received by audiences and received mixed reviews from the major critics. Videodrome has since received mostly positive reviews from modern critics for its visionary and techno-surreal depiction of a future dystopia. Videodrome was nominated for 8 Genie Awards (including Best Screenplay; Best Achievement in Art Direction, Cinematography and Film Editing; and Best Performances by Actors and an Actress in a Supporting Roles). Cronenberg won the Genie for Best Achievement in Direction in a tie with Bob Clark for A Christmas Story. Videodrome is ranked fourth on Bravo’s 30 Even Scarier Movie Moments. The Toronto International Film Festival ranked it 89th in the most essential movies in film history.