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You Better Watch Out for These Classic Holiday Horrors

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With his all-seeing omniscience and ability to sneak into houses at night, Santa can be one scary dude. Most horror fans are doubtlessly familiar with semi-recent movies like Krampus (2015), Rare Exports (2010), and Santa’s Slay (2005), all of which reimagine Santa Satanic. But before every singer had a holiday album and every movie wormed its way into being a “holiday classic,” Christmas movies were every so often oddities. Horror Christmas movies were nearly nonexistent.

As the Christmas season descends on us and, no doubt, another few evil Santa movies enter the fray, let’s revisit some older films that pushed boundaries, turning Christmas dark.

Black Christmas (1974) is one of those few movies moving into slasher flick territory a few years before Halloween and Friday the 13th blew the genre open.

Sorority sisters are planning their Christmas break when anonymous phone calls and a sister’s disappearance make them nervous, so they bring in the police. Who done it?

This is a movie with a well-planned plot; superior acting from Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, and John Saxon; and an ending that will keep you on edge for days.

You would expect a horror thriller set in a sorority house to be an over-the-top T&A fest. Black Christmas avoids this completely, with believable women reasonably dressed. Yes, this is a plus.

No, I didn’t see, and have no plans to see, the 2006 remake.

This is not just another slasher film, it is the slasher film few others come close to matching in quality. Yes, see 1974’s Black Christmas.

I generally avoid made-for-TV movies, those fillers for ‘70s television that, especially in the horror genre, deliver very little. I was pleasantly surprised by Home for the Holidays (1972).

The excellent cast includes Sally Field, Jessica Walter, Eleanor Parker, Walter Brennan… the list goes on. The writer is Joseph Stefano, who scripted Psycho (1960), The Kindred (1987), several “Outer Limits” episodes, and more.

A crotchety old father who claims his current wife is trying to poison him sends for his four daughters over Christmas.

This is Spelling-Goldberg Productions, the company that produced much-loved but often vacuous television in the ’70s, so catty conversation, infidelity, and dysfunctional family interactions, the usual ’70s TV tropes, are in abundance. Picture a Giallo thriller without the edge.

Surprisingly, the ominous mood builds pretty well once characters begin disappearing, due to John Moxey’s directing. I’m a fan of seeing what directors can do with limited sets and budget. Moxey directed one of my favorite ‘60s witchcraft movies, The City of the Dead. He has even less to work with here, building tension with little more than actors’ tense expressions.

A low-budget, cult favorite, Christmas Evil (1980) follows a warped and creepy, but surprisingly sympathetic, toy factory executive who snaps and turns into a killer Santa.

Horror lovers I’ve met who discover this movie overwhelmingly love it. Written and directed (always a good sign) by Lewis Jackson, Christmas Evil (originally titled You Better Watch Out) hits an already holiday-warped guy with all of the disillusions of modern Christmas. Who among us doesn’t feel anger at commercialism, hypocrisy, and naughty kids?

Brandon Maggart excels as the bad Santa. He underplays his role as the poor, picked on schmuck who always brightens when facing holiday traditions. The cynical people around him simply don’t live up to the holiday spirit.

I’m always interested in movies, horror or otherwise, that have something to say beyond plot. It’s called “theme,” and more filmmakers should look into it. Christmas Evil explores how far modern society has moved away from goodwill toward men and what responsibility individuals have to restore those ideals. Heavy, right? Don’t worry, the theme doesn’t get in the way of enjoying this movie.

With inventive editing, unique music, and a sense of humor, Christmas Evil is a perennial favorite for me. It may become one of your eerie holiday traditions.

Silent Night, Bloody Night (1974) is thought to be a holiday movie by some, but I’ve already included it on my list of ’70s “mental unhealth” movies recently so I won’t include it here. You may note, though, that when a movie crosses over to different lists, it may be worth your time.

So, you better watch out for these three classic horrors! Acclaim to those moviemakers who create something different for us horror fans to enjoy, even during the holidays. Pour some eggnog, and sit back for fun. ’Tis the season for fright!


Gary Scott Beatty’s graphic novel Wounds is available on Amazon and Comixology. Is madness a way to survive the zombie apocalypse? The strangest zombie story ever written, Wounds throws us into a world where nothing is beyond doubt, except a father’s concern for his wife and daughter. If you enjoy that “What th-?” factor in graphic novels, you’ll enjoy Wounds. For more from Gary Scott Beatty, visit him on Twitter and Facebook.

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Josh Millican’s Best Horror Films of 2017

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It may just be that my love of horror grows every year, but it honestly feels as though 2017 has been a red-letter year for the genre. Not only are films like Andy Muschietti’s IT and Jordan Peele’s Get Out generating Oscar buzz but we’ve seen horror elements seep into mainstream movies and TV shows, from Logan to “Stranger Things”.

And this hasn’t merely been an amazing year for mainstream horror, with powerful indies emerging as some 2017’s best; it’s further proof that many of the most compelling and important genre flicks are being produced outside the traditional Hollywood system. Below, in no particular order, are my selections for the Best Horror Films of 2017. Let me know what you think in the Comments section!


Brawl in Cell Block 99

Though the subject matter is completely different, S. Craig Zahler’s Brawl in Cell Block 99 has many parallels to his first film, 2015’s Bone Tomahawk. Both movies build slowly and are anchored by compelling characters and engrossing dialogue; furthermore, both films are deceptively understated until an explosive and shocking 3rd Act hits like a gut-punch.

Vince Vaughn delivers a genuinely poignant portrayal of Bradley Thomas, a down-on-his-luck drug runner willing to do anything to protect his family from disgruntled former associates. Don Johnson also deserves a shout-out for his turn as corrupt Warden Tuggs, the most unnerving fictional jailer since Cool Hand Luke.

Brawl in Cell Block 99 isn’t your typical horror movie, presenting a meandering narrative, but it’s still as entertaining as anything that follows an established formula. Horror is always most compelling when we can connect with a film’s protagonists, and this film delivers in spades.


Raw

Julia Ducournau’s Raw both benefited and suffered from reports of audience members fainting and falling ill during the film’s 2015 premiere at TIFF. Upon its limited theatrical release, The Nuart in Los Angeles passed barf bags out to moviegoers, a tactic usually reserved for the most extreme and outlandish of B-movies, films intentionally crafted to trigger the gag-reflex. While Raw does indeed contain scenes that are very difficult to stomach (pun intended!) it’s hardly a 2-dimensional gross-out.

Before classifying the film as horror, it’s a coming of age saga first and foremost. Themes of cannibalism and bodily mutilations become metaphors for sexual awakenings and transitions into adulthood. Raw is also a compelling study of sibling rivalries and the powerful influence of heredity on personal development.


The Blackcoat’s Daughter

Though released after I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is actually the debut film from Oz Perkins (son of horror icon Anthony Perkins). It combines the supernatural terrors of a possession movie with the compelling complexity of a murder mystery. The all-girls boarding school in winter provides a moody aesthetic with Gothic undertones while serving as an incubator for sexual awakenings and religious guilt.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter hinges on a powerful twist, but this doesn’t hit the audience like a ton of bricks; rather, the film’s secrets are gradually unraveled, resulting in a slow realization that’s as poignant as it is shocking. The film succeeds in no small part thanks to compelling performances by a trio of talented young thespians: Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka, and Lucy Boynton.


The Devil’s Candy

Sean Byrne is one of the most talented horror practitioners to emerge from Australia in the 21st Century. His debut film, The Loved Ones, is an under-seen sleeper that balances teen angst, dark comedy, and extreme violence. With his follow-up film, The Devil’s Candy, Byrne is finally getting the attention he deserves.

It’s less extreme than The Loved Ones, but The Devil’s Candy’s understated presentation, genuine drama, and slow-burn build-up delivers more palpable dread and a lasting resonance. The Devil’s Candy is a chaotic mix of heavy metal music and inner demons and can be viewed as a metaphor for how the blind pursuit of art can destroy families.

Ethan Embry deserves a shout out for his harrowing portrayal of father and artist Jesse Hellman. Who’d have thought the kid from Can’t Hardly Wait would develop into such a skilled actor?


Get OutGet Out

Historically, Q1 is a bad time for horror movies, as studios are prone to dumping films they have little faith in. Jordan Peele’s Get Out breaks the rules in many ways and, though released in February, it remains one of the most lauded and analyzed films of 2017—in any genre. The inclusion of sociopolitical elements makes Get Out both unique and timely, although even without its social agenda, Get Out is a compelling and unnerving experience, one that stokes paranoia by exacerbating primal fears related to deception and isolation.

Peele has become an exciting and refreshing figure in horror with plans for more socially-conscious thrillers in the years to come.


47 Meters Down

Nearly unceremoniously dumped directly to DVD in 2016, In the Deep was rebranded 47 Meters Down and given a theatrical release last Summer, where it became an unlikely hit. Perhaps hampered by preconceptions relating to lead actress Mandy Moore, 47 Meters Down is nonetheless immensely entertaining, eclipsing 2016’s shark-horror blockbuster The Shallows.

I do have doubts about the film’s ability to spawn a franchise (there’s currently a sequel in the works, being produced under the temporary title 48 Meters Down) considering this film hinges on a twist that can only be used once, so it’s difficult to imagine a sequel with the same impact—but who knows?

Ultimately, though, even a bad sequel won’t diminish the shine of 47 Meters Down. The film also proves there are still plenty of ways to pack legitimate terror into a PG-13 horror movie.

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Ash Vs Evil Dead Seasons 1 and 2 Are Now Streaming on Netflix

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The last word we brought you guys on the upcoming third season of Starz’s “Ash vs Evil Dead” starring Bruce Campbell was when we shared the show’s all-new teaser trailer (below).

Today we have awesome news that the first two seasons are now streaming on Netflix!

So if you’ve been putting off watching the series (for some reason) or have been waiting until the day where you could just binge-watch the series in one grand swoop, then today is your day. There isn’t a better time than now. Just make sure you’re caught up come February.

Hell, yeah.

Are you excited to watch (or rewatch) the first two seasons of “Ash vs Evil Dead” on Netflix? Let us know below!

“Ash vs Evil Dead” stars Bruce Campbell, Ray Santiago, Dana DeLorenzo, and Lucy Lawless. Campbell executive produces the series with Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, Ivan Raimi, and Rick Jacobson. Season 3’s new showrunners are Mark Verheiden and Moira Grant.

“Ash vs Evil Dead” season 3 hits STARZ Sunday, February 25, 2018.

Synopsis:

Ash has spent the last 30 years avoiding responsibility, maturity and the terrors of the Evil Dead until a Deadite plague threatens to destroy all of mankind and Ash becomes mankind’s only hope.

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Guillermo del Toro’s Animated Series Trollhunters 2 Now Streaming on Netflix

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Netflix’s “Trollhunters” isn’t a series I’ve had the chance to check out for myself. Nothing against the kid’s horror series, I just haven’t had the time.

That said I’ve heard good word-of-mouth regarding the series and being that it comes from the mind of Guillermo del Toro it can’t be a total waste of time. Especially with a cast featuring Ron Perlman, Steven Yeun, and Anton Yelchin.

If you’re like me and haven’t given the show a go yet, then make sure to check out the following promos below and then make your mind up from there. You have to hand it to the series as it looks utterly stunning. Hope the actual content holds up. Only one way to find out!

“Trollhunters” is created and executive produced by Guillermo del Toro. Executive producers include Marc Guggenheim, Rodrigo Blaas, Christina Steinberg, and Chad Hammes. Dan Hageman and Kevin Hageman are co-executive producers.

Voice talent for includes Kelsey Grammer (“The Simpsons,” X-Men: The Last Stand), Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Steven Yeun (“The Walking Dead”), and Anton Yelchin (Fright Night).

“Trollhunters Part 2” is now streaming on Netflix.

Synopsis:

When ordinary teenager Jim Lake, Jr., stumbles upon a mystical amulet on his way to school one morning, he inadvertently discovers an extraordinary secret civilization of mighty trolls beneath his small town of Arcadia. Suddenly destined to play a crucial role in an ancient battle of good and evil, Jim is determined to save the world – right after gym class.

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