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.
Scary, witty, funny and poignant, Buffy the Vampire Slayer tells the story of Buffy, a girl who wants to be normal but struggles with a powerful destiny. It is truly a groundbreaking television program — well written and directed — it uses the supernatural occurrences as metaphors for its coming of age story lines. Buffy the Vampire Slayer has also spawned a whole generation of similar programs with supernatural coming of age stories.
In order, here are my favourite episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer:
#1: Hush, Season 4, Episode 10 (1999):
The Gentlemen, evil creatures from a fairy tale, first steal the voices of everyone in Sunnydale and then seek to kill them by removing their hearts.
A truly creepy and frightening episode, as the victims are unable to cry out for help.
Can’t even shout, can’t even cry
The gentlemen are coming by
Looking in windows, knocking on doors
They need to take seven and they might take yours
Can’t call to mom, can’t say a word
You’re gonna die screaming but you won’t be heard.
#2 Innocence, Season 2, Episode 14 (1998):
After Buffy loses her virginity to Angel, Angel loses his soul from experiencing a moment of true happiness and lashes out with cruelty.
The story becomes a metaphor for the experience of growing up and the feelings around discovering your sexuality.
Angelus: You got a lot to learn about men, kiddo. Although I guess you proved that last night.
#3 The Body, Season 5, Episode 16 (2001):
Buffy must deal with the unexpected death of their mother.
A truly heartbreaking depiction as the audience also experiences Buffy’s numbness and shock at losing someone close.
Buffy: She’s cold. 911 Operator: The body is cold? Buffy: No, my mom!
#4 Restless, Season 4, Episode 22 (2000):
Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles have nightmares in which they are pursued by the same mysterious figure.
One of the most fascinating and realistic depictions of how surreal, comical and horrifying our dream worlds are like.
I have no speech, no name. I live in the action of death. The blood cry, the penetrating wound. I am destruction, absolute, alone.
#5 Once More, with Feeling, Season 6, Episode 7 (2001):
Everyone in Sunnydale is under a spell that causes them to burst into full musical numbers through which they reveal their innermost secrets.
I wonderful mash-up of two seemingly disparate genres — musical horror — that works with unexpectedly fun and poignant results.
Sweet: What a lot of fun
You guys have been real swell.
And there’s not a one
Who can say this ended well.
All those secrets you’ve been concealing.
Say you’re happy now
Once more with feeling.
Now I gotta run.
See you all
#6 Passion, Season 2, Episode 17 (1998):
As Jenny Calendar searches for a way to restore Angel’s soul, Angel steps up his torment of Buffy and her friends with tragic results.
This is one of the most tragically unsettling episodes in the series — revealing a world where no one is safe.
Angelus: Passion. It lies in all of us. Sleeping…waiting…and though unwanted…unbidden…it will stir…open its jaws, and howl. It speaks to us…guides us. Passion rules us all. And we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. the joy of love…the clarity of hatred…and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion, maybe we’d know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank. Without passion, we’d truly be dead.
# 7 Normal Again, Season 6, Episode 17 (2002):
Buffy realizes that she is in a mental asylum and that her whole life has all been really playing out in her delusional mind … or has is it?
The episode focuses on Buffy’s desire to lead a normal life away from all the supernatural drama and violence. Here, she has to make the difficult choice of which reality she wants to stay in.
Buffy: I was in an institution. There were doctors, and nurses and other patients, they told me that I was sick… I guess crazy. And that Sunnydale and all of this, none of it was real. Xander: Oh, come on, that’s ridiculous! What, you think this isn’t real just because of all the vampires, and demons, and ex-vengeance demons, and the sister that used to be a big ball of universe-destroying energy?
#8 The Wish, Season 3, Episode 9 (1998):
Cordelia thinks that Buffy is the cause of all her problems and wishes that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale, plunging Cordelia into an alternate Universe where vampires control the town.
This episode is a fun and twisted take on It’s A Wonderful Life.
Giles: Cordelia Chase. What did she wish for? Anyanka: I had no idea her wish would be so exciting! ‘Brave new world.’ I hope she likes it.
#9 Killed by Death, Season 2, Episode 18 (1998):
While hospitalized with a severe flu, Buffy battles a demon that sucks the life out of sick children.
Next to Hush, this is the most creepy and terrifying episode in the series.
Ryan: He comes at night. The grown-ups don’t see him. He was with Tina. He’ll come back for us. Buffy: Who? Ryan: Death.
#10 Tabula Rasa, Season 6, Episode 8 (2001):
Willow casts a spell that accidentally causes everyone to forget who they are.
This is a very funny episode, as each person has to re-invent and re-discover themselves with comic consequences.
Giles: [now under the impression he and Spike are father and son] What did I name you, anyway? Spike: [reads a label in his coat] “Made with care for Randy”. [horrified] Randy Giles!? Why didn’t you just call me “Horny Giles”, or “Desperate-for-a-Shag Giles”!? I knew there was a reason I hated you!