There’s no such thing as a thanksgiving horror film. Here are the ten “best” of the 12 or 13 spooky movies I watched this October and beyond. The Halloween season spans from January 2nd to the day before Thanksgiving. This is a time when corpses rise from their graves and all murder is legal. A lot of people don’t know that. Thanksgiving through New Years is the Lord’s time.
The order’s been thought through a little but not too much. I include the movie’s taglines when they exist. What an art. I hope to someday get a job writing horror movie taglines.
10. Devil (2010)
Bad things happen for a reason
The PG-13 makes me not want to put Devil on the list. Murder is rated R. Any life worth dying in gets an R rating—whatever. All these bad people get trapped in an elevator. The lights flicker and then there’s a dead person, on and on until one or two are left. It’s an Agatha Christie-esque whodunit. One of them’s the devil. The devil is in the elevator. Mindy Kaling’s TV boyfriend Chris Messina plays the detective tasked with bringing the lord of darkness to justice. You can’t tell that he’s too short for me when everybody’s shrunk down inside the television. [Netflix streaming]
9. Buried Alive (1990)
One of them put an end to the marriage, until the other came back for revenge
The worst tagline of all of them. I’d blame it on an unpaid intern but I don’t think they had those in 1990 for made for TV movies. Frank Darabont fucking directed this, the guy who wrote The Shawshank Redemption. The creator of TVs “The Walking Dead.” I remember seeing this movie on TV in my apparently unsupervised childhood. Jennifer Jason Leigh wears shoulder pads. Good dog acting by the Rottweiler; holy fuck I want my own Rottweiler. Movie’s a classic noir setup. The wife hates her husband, plots her death with her lover, people are betrayed, he’s “buried alive,” there’s a lot of woodworking. If Buried Alive were in black and white and starred Humphrey Bogart, we’d be talking about it in college. If you’re looking for this movie, beware: there are about 10,000 other films with the same title. [I can't tell you how I found this film.]
8. Resolution (2012)
Why is this a horror movie? The horror elements of this are not even. I can’t even. Michael’s friend Chris loves crack so much and who can blame him, but drugs ruin your life and turn you into a bad friend, so Michael chains him to the wall to force him through withdrawals. Then some stupid supernatural shit happens, I don’t recall exactly, a haunted video tape or witch or something. But in between all of that, they manage to say poignant shit to each other about what drives a man to the pipe and the human response. What’s Michael’s true motivation and is life really so precious, really? This movie is a documentary about what I would like to do to my friend Will, but who has the time. [Netflix streaming]
7. Hider in the House (1989)
You can’t lock him out. He’s already in.
Made for TV movies from the golden era of cinema are nothing to fuck with. Gary Busey doesn’t exactly play against type as the recently released mental patient who builds himself a room in the attic of a nice family’s new home. The new family has a dog. Do you guys think the dog is going to be okay? Busey wants to be normal so bad. He just wants the Dad to be gone and to marry the Mom but he’s Lenny Of Mice and Men and people in his way are frightened girls squashed dead under his thumb. This is a buy-the-numbers horror story but suspiciously well written and acted. The characters are 3D and smart. Everybody Hates Busey. Good body count. [In full on Youtube.]
6. Ravenous (1999)
You are who you eat
Hey, this one’s about food and it’s set in Civil War era America so it’s basically a legit thanksgiving horror movie. The turkey’s made out of people, though; everybody running around with their mind’s lost. The best thing about the film, unequivocally: the score. What instrument even makes those sounds. How tonally inappropriate. And yet. Check out these idiots arguing about it on the imdb message boards, subject: What an Annoying Soundtrack… Comments include, but are not limited to:
“Halfway in I wanted to stab my already-busted eardrums, it was SOOO loud and annoying. ”
“I find the music utterly unfitting for a movie set in the 19th century”
“Sorry, I actually like interesting soundtracks in my favorite movies.” [Netflix streaming]
The next three films are directed by Ti West, a hip new filmmaker that people may very well be talking about.
5. The Innkeepers (2011)
Some guests never check out
A film about a couple of hip young people with sexual tension. The hotel is haunted. Not particularly scary or memorable; I don’t know why I included this. [Netflix streaming]
4. The House of the Devil (2009)
Talk on the phone. Finish your homework. Watch TV. Die.
This, on the other hand, is a legit 1980s horror film throwback. Shot in digital I’m sure but they threw on an instagram-style old school film filter. [correction: turns out I was exactly wrong; film is legit shot on 16mm. That makes me want to put this at like 1 or 2.] Tom Noonan needs a babysitter for his mom. Girl wears a walkman and Greta Gerwig plays her friend. The babysitter eats pizza for two straight meals. Things start off one way, then shit gets dark as fuck. [Netflix streaming]
3. The Sacrament (2013)
Live as one. Die as one.
Sometimes it pays to be stupid, but for this example I’m about to deprive you of that luxury. I didn’t know this film was basically a modern adaptation of the Jim Jones, everybody drinks kool-aid and dies cult story. So when everybody in the cult got together and drank poison kool-aid, I was horrified and surprised. (I clearly did not read the tagline, either.) It’s a palpable series of scenes. They scared the shit out of me; I dreamed about it for days. Beyond that, meh. It’s a “found footage” movie which is just unfortunate. Bunch of Vice journalists visit the cult, they get camera access that they would never ever get in real life—such a dumb conceit, I hate found footage, why they gotta do that for a film that could have been so, so good. Instead it’s pretty good. Awesome Gene Jones performance as “the father,” just an unfortunate coincidence he has the same last name as the real guy. This movie’s proof that liberals can be scary and batshit, too! The box says “Eli Roth presents.” Not a compliment. [Netflix streaming]
2. You’re Next (2011)
Forgive me for being so mainstream. Of all my pics you’re most likely to have already seen this one. Maybe you’re one of those people who takes pride in not having seen any movies; go fuck yourself. I appreciate the savage simplicity: A rich, grown up family get together for a dinner party and people outside are trying to kill them with arrows. At first you don’t know why, and then a motive’s revealed and it makes perfect sense. It’s not some ridiculous bullshit. They hear bumping around upstairs and somebody says a line about this being an old creaky house. I know that sounds terrible but in fact it felt like a breathing organism of a wink. [Netflix streaming]
1. The Signal (2007)
This is not a test
It doesn’t get any weirder. A psychotic poet I know, a man who’s one dirty look away from killing everyone recommended this film to me. We might as well have met in an underground tunnel at night. He handed me an envelope with a slip inside that said “The Signal” on it, followed by, “the 2007 version. Not the new one from 2014.” Anyway, TV’s are sending out a signal that’s making everyone go on a murderous rampage. Never mind the why, it’s the how it plays out that matters. The film stars AJ Bowen, who irrelevantly enough is in four out of the ten movies on this list. (He’s the cutie pie with the beard.) It’s hard to make a movie with a slippery reality whose puzzle doesn’t also bore you. I decided this film was number one under the influence of ambien. Now I’m just like. I don’t remember, but probably I mean it. [I can't tell you how I found this film.]
There’s the list. That’s it. Do you like it? Why don’t you like it. Be my facebook friend if you aren’t already! Creepers creep me out.