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MattFini’s Halloween Top 10 Lists: Best Sequels

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Saw VI, much to my surprise, turned out to be one of the better films in the franchise, and in honor of it, I thought we’d look at some of the genre’s best sequels. They’re a fact of life when it comes to horror films so here’s my take on some of the follow-ups that either usurped the originals or, at least, turned out better than expected.

MattFini's Halloween Top 10 Lists: Best Sequels!

10. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

After the baffling detour into “hey, let’s use Freddy as a metaphor for teenage homosexuality” that was Freddy’s Revenge*, the series realigned itself with this direct follow-up to Wes Craven’s original (with Craven himself contributing to script duties).

Part 3 boasts an imaginative story, good characters (need I remind anyone of Kincaid?), and one of the most memorable locales in the franchise. Director Charles (later Chuck, for some reason) Russell makes great use of the institution setting, and we gleam just enough of Freddy’s backstory to enlighten us without ruining his mystique.

Even as the series was tipping its scales forever toward comedy, Dream Warriors packs some scary and uncomfortable bits (love that intro nightmare, and the puppet death still makes me squirm). Some fans even feel this one trumps the original, an accolade I don’t necessarily share but won’t refute. Part 3 is certainly everything you could want in a sequel, though.

*For the record, I love Freddy’s Revenge. It almost ended up on this list in place of Part 3, but in the end the prospect of John Saxon battling a stop-motion skeleton was too cool to avoid the callout.

9. Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)

Nobody was expecting Gremlins 2 to be anything but a retread of the first film, albeit in a big city setting. Imagine the surprise, then, when Joe Dante went to the creative well and returned with a sequel that somehow topped its predecessor.

Part 2 works because these guys weren’t content to merely retread the original. Many of the characters are back for a second go ‘round, but Gremlins 2 is a far more comedic outing with the horrific elements peppered in sporadically. There are more titular creatures on display (Spider Gremlin, Bat Gremlin, Brain Gremlin and, er, Vegetable Gremlin?), each of which contributes to the chaos through a variety of inspired setpieces and musical numbers. Plus, John Glover manages to steal every scene he’s in as the megalomaniacal Daniel Clamp, whose state-of-the-art office tower is the setting for the pandemonium.

8. Exorcist III (1990)

Exorcist III lays claim to one of the greatest slow-burn setpieces in the genre (if you’ve seen it, you know it), but it’s for more than that that I include it here. Writer/director William Peter Blatty adapts his novel Legion for the big screen, crafting a low-key, supernatural film noir as Lt. Kinderman (George C. Scott, replacing Lee J. Cobb in the original) hunts the long deceased Gemini Killer.

Blatty’s sequel works because it doesn’t try to retread Friedkin ground (with the exception of a studio-imposed climactic exorcism sequence that comes out of nowhere), offering instead an intricately plotted mystery loaded with disturbing imagery and some surprising comedic relief. Scott is amazing as the cynical Kinderman, but it’s Brad Dourif’s unforgettable performance that truly mesmerizes (so much so that he practically reprised the role for the 1994 X-Files episode “Beyond the Sea”).

Unfortunately, Blatty’s director’s cut has never seen the light of day, despite being a heavily requested title for Warner Bros. This somewhat truncated version manages to retain much of the care and quality, however, and even if the climax may not completely work (and dig the alternate trailer below, which contains some quick shots of the infamous ‘morphing’ sequence), Exorcist III remains one of the most underlooked horror films of the 1990s.

7. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

While I’ve never subscribed to the notion that James Whale’s sequel is far superior to the original, this follow-up feels like such a logical progression of the first that you almost have to watch them both back-to-back.

This is the one that gives us the sympathetic monster, very strong dialogue (”To a new world of gods and monsters…”, ”Sometimes I have wondered whether life wouldn’t be much more amusing if we were all devils, no nonsense about angels and being good.”) and lots of bizarre humor (ahead of its time). Colin Clive’s mad scientist is more refined this time around (another reason why I prefer the original), giving way to the sinister Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger), who intends to give the monster a bride.

Bride also benefits from a rich Gothic feel that very few modern films are able to duplicate, making it perfect for this time of year. It, with the original, are required viewing in my house during the month of October, and while it’s visibly dated, it’s still a ton of fun.

6. Evil Dead 2 (1987)

For those of us who discovered this during the pre-Internet days of VHS, it was especially mind-blowing. Possessed hands; chainsaw-wielding, headless corpses; and one hell of a wicked witch were just some of the surprises that assaulted our unsuspecting senses.

Despite already being familiar with the Necronomicon, courtesy of The Evil Dead, we had no way of knowing what Sam Raimi had in store for us during this second installment. Bruce is a one-man show, enduring an unbelievable parade of torment for much of the running time, and it’s his portrayal of Ash that catapulted him to the very top of the list of horror heroes, where he reigns supreme even today.

This movie keeps building on itself with every Deadite attack growing more wild and outrageous until the ridiculously over-the-top finale. It’s the all-time greatest horror roller-coaster ride, bar none. Swallow this!

5. Psycho III (1986)

Following the critical and financial success of Psycho II, the third installment in the series was wrongfully dismissed as a bloody/sleazy cash-in. I’d like to think its reputation has increased in recent years as Anthony Perkins’ directorial debut is one of the most brilliant horror films of the 1980s.

Wisely, Charles Edward Pogue’s script dismisses with the convoluted ‘whodunit’ nature of the second film to focus on Norman’s psychology. We know that Norman has slipped off the deep end again at the outset, and Part III is all about his struggle. Perkins was never better in the role, alternating between anguished, desperate, and batshit insane at various times, and he imbues the character with a huge amount of sympathy. The tragedy of Norman is heightened by the introduction of Maureen Samuels, a runaway nun who might be the key to his deliverance.

Being a slasher flick, Psycho III features a few nasty kills, but this one’s not about the body count. Stylish direction (Perkins probably made Dario Argento proud), a haunting Carter Burwell score, and great acting across the board (I’m looking at you, Jeff Fahey) help lend credence to the material. While the second film is a very, very good follow-up, the third trumps it in every way.

You’ll never think about lampshades the same way again.

4. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)

Friday the 13th is the only major horror franchise where the first film isn’t universally regarded as the best in the series. Jason Lives isn’t only the best sequel in the enduring legacy of Camp Crystal Lake, it’s the best film in the series.

Writer/director Tom McLoughlin injects lots of humor into the action, but the comedy never comes at Jason’s expense. His classic horror influences also shine through, making this one of the most atmospheric of all the Friday flicks, from the chilly graveyard intro to the fog-laden climax atop Crystal Lake itself. Tommy Jarvis (the underrated Thom Mathews) is more of a proactive hero (after he proves to be the direct result of this killing spree, that is) than in any film before or after, making him a great nemesis for the man behind the mask.

In its relatively brisk running time, Jason Lives distinguishes itself from most other entries by offering semi-competent cops; self-referential, but never obnoxious, humor; and colorful characters that largely earn your sympathy before they’re brutally slaughtered. Most importantly, it’s a blast to watch.

3. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

With Jason and Freddy reaping box office profits, it was only a matter of time before Michael was brought back into the fold after a one-film hiatus.

And Halloween 4 delivers the goods: lots of Halloween ambiance, a small central group of characters whom we come to care about, and a solid script by Alan B. McElroy that explores Michael’s impact on the town of Haddonfield itself. Halloween isn’t the same without Donald Pleasence, either, and his decision to play Dr. Loomis just a little bit crazier with each passing sequel is a fantastic touch.

Danielle Harris and Ellie Cornell are some of the genre’s most appealing heroines, bringing some very strong performances to the table, and Beau Starr’s Sheriff Meeker is one bad mofo! Michael’s cunning (creating a town-wide power outage so to better stalk his victims) makes him all the more frightening, and the surprise ending had everyone talking back in the day. If you’re going to resurrect an iconic slasher, this is how you do it.

2. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, part 2 (1986)

I’m going to be honest with you: I like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Part 2 more than the original. It’s not that I don’t adore the first film, but Tobe Hooper’s follow-up is so well written and outrageous that I’ve come to worship it!

From the satirical dialogue (”the small businessman always takes it in the rear!”) to the flat-out disgusting gore FX, Chainsaw 2 is a wildly unexpected assault on Reaganomics. Transforming his much feared cannibal killers into a small and seemingly legitimate business, Tobe Hooper certainly didn’t take the conventional route when creating this follow-up. And instead of recapturing the intensity of the original, he went the opposite route, making a film loaded with steady streams of comedy and gore.

Equipped with lots of memorable (and uncomfortable) bits, a Dennis Hopper performance you’ve got to see to believe, and arguably the greatest set design of all time, this one is a winner through and through.

1. Dawn of the Dead (1978)

The horror epic of all time. Enough said.

MattFini

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Films That Could Exist Within the Cloverfield Universe

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As some of you may or may not know, both Cloverfield and its killer sequel, 10 Cloverfield Lane, are hitting 4K Blu-ray January 23rd. And that, coupled with the fact that we love all things Cloverfield, had us thinking it would be fun to write up an article called “Films That Could Exist in the Cloverfield Universe.”

And that’s what this is… kinda. It was only when I started researching the topic that I came to the conclusion that almost any and every movie featuring monsters and aliens (including Monsters vs Aliens) could be shoehorned into fitting within the Cloverfield universe.

This put me at a loss considering there’s a seemingly endless stream of films that could be part of the universe and, more importantly, films I wish were part of the universe (John Carpenter’s The Thing, anyone?). But today I decided to narrow the topic down to a handful of films I genuinely think could be part of J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot’s Cloverfield universe.

Now let’s get to it!

***

Star Trek

This one might be met with a resounding, “Duh.” But maybe not. After all, J.J. Abrams’ reboot of Star Trek isn’t horror so it might slip a few people’s minds that the film even (for all intents and purposes) features two Cloverfield monsters!

It’s true. In the audio commentary for the film, director J.J. Abrams even goes on to say that the monsters in question were designed by the same dude who created the big bad in the original Cloverfield film.

Not only that, but how cool would it be to see Star Trek 4 (directed by Quentin Tarantino) and starring Chris Hemsworth and Chris Pine AND have them face-off at some point against the Cloverfield monster; only to accidentally banish it back in time to 2008 New York City?

Not gonna happen, but still, it’s fun to think about.

Super 8

Remember that resounding “duh” I mentioned earlier? I hope you saved it for this entry. But seriously, how could one possibly make a list of films that could be in the Cloverfield universe and NOT include J.J. Abrams’ Amblin-throwback Super 8?

Exactly. Forgive me.

Anyhow, the film truly plays like such a Cloverfield sequel that the fact that this film ISN’T officially in the Cloverfield universe blows my mind. It must have to do with rights issues, or something technical like that. Right?

Whatever the reason may be for Super 8 to be left off the list of Cloverfield sequels, the film will always be considered by fans to be the best entry in the series. And maybe that’s not fair to the other films. And maybe that’s why Super 8 isn’t a Cloverfield movie. It’s all starting to make a bit of sense.

Colossal

Wait, where are you going?!

I don’t know if you’ve had the chance to see Colossal yet, but I highly recommend you check it out. I’m not going to go to spoilers here but if you’ve seen the film’s trailer then you’ll already know all the bits of plot I’m about to go into here.

The film is about a huge Cloverfield-style monster busting up South Korea and it turns out that this movie’s Godzilla is (stick with me here) all merely a monstrous manifestation of some alcoholic loner, played by Anne Hathaway, chick’s psyche run rampant.

Deep, huh? Trust me, the film is more of a comedy than it lets on. And for that matter, the film is more of an intense interpersonal drama than the first “indie-comedy” half lets on. But still, how cool would it be if this film was connected to the Cloverfield Universe?

Picture this: It turns out the monster that stomp-f*cks its way through NYC in the original Cloverfield film is really a manifestation of the lead character’s fear of moving away to Japan and leaving behind all of his friends, family, and ex-girlfriend.

And let’s not stop there. What if 10 Cloverfield Lane is really all about Mary Elizabeth Winstead breaking down after her most recent failed relationship (sensing a pattern here?) and her damaged psyche manifests as killer alien aircraft (or whatever the hell was going on in the last act of that film)? Whoa.

This element makes for much deeper, more psychologically scary films amiright? Maybe metaphor movies aren’t your bag, and that’s cool. But I dig films that twist the demons of the mind into frightening realities. Hell, one of the best sci-fi films of all-time is Forbidden Planet and that’s exactly what that film is about!

Oh, you haven’t seen Forbidden Planet? Well, make sure you check it out – along with Colossal – tonight. If psychological sci-fi is your thing, that is. If not, steer clear.

The Mist

Ah, Frank Darabont’s take on Stephen King’s classic novella The Mist. This is a film that I believe we all wish were part of the Cloverfield universe. But wait, didn’t I say at the beginning of this piece that these weren’t films I wished were part of the universe (like Men in Black)? Yes, I did say that. But let me explain.

The reason The Mist is on here is that, I mean, come on, look that those monsters! Which ones, you might ask? All of them. Every single one of the endless nightmare horde that descends upon that particular Tom Jane-fortified grocery store in King’s tale looks like it came straight out of Cloverfield‘s playbook. That or Monsters Inc

And don’t laugh at that last line, as director Frank Darabont has said himself in the film’s audio commentary that he had his team design one monster, in particular, to look just like Mr. Waternoose from Monsters Inc. True story. Now go back and watch The Mist and try to find the Mr. Waternoose character. It’ll be like “I Spy” or something.

But until then, let’s just all hope that with J.J. Abrams teaming up with Stephen King more and more these days (“Castle Rock”) that we may very well get a The Mist 2 entry within the Cloverfield Universe.

Just don’t hold your breath.

***

Buy Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane on 4k Blu-ray HERE and HERE!

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13 Lesser Known Found Footage Films That Just Might Restore Your Faith in the Genre.

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Found Footage.” Are there any two words as polarizing in the horror community? Once the cutting edge of indie horror, now the simple utterance of the words is enough to turn people away at the door. To be fair, it’s not like the genre has been kind to us. For every quality film like The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity, there are dozens of films that can only be described as, “some dude had three friends and a camera.” Even major theatrical releases are no guarantee of quality.

Personally, I have some kind of sick obsession with found footage. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve whittled away on Amazon Prime, scrolling through the unending horde of found footage, searching for the next diamond in the rough. I have watched so many groups of friends get trapped in abandoned asylums that I could probably draw a map from memory. Seriously, I don’t even need their contrived reason to get locked in whatever building overnight anymore. I just assume their goal is to get ghosted to death.

People often ask me why I torture myself so, usually as they walk into the living room and witness a version of Ted that has become more couch than person. Maybe I am just an eternal optimist, genuinely believing that this next one might just be great. Maybe I really like the gritty, indie feel. Or maybe I just hate myself. Regardless, every once in awhile I do stumble across something that shows me just what the found footage style is capable of.
Now, I get that a lot of people are just sick of found footage. Spurned too many times and drowning in crap, many have decided to board the S.S. The Genre Is Dead To Me and sail above seas of shit looking for dry land. But wait, what’s that in the distance? It’s Ted, manning the lighthouse to safe harbor. After years of diving through the roiling waves of turd, here and there I’ve found some gems. So let me take you on a journey of the 13 Lesser Known Found Footage Films That Might Just Restore Your Faith in the Genre.


13) Final Prayer/The Borderlands (2013)

Now, stop me if you’ve heard this one. A priest, religious brother, and cameraman walk into a church. The ghost in the alter goes, “ooga booga.” Someone lights a sheep on fire. General spookiness ensues.

My favorite kind of movies are those that throw in a twist that makes you go, “wait, the fuck just happened?” If this were a list of most unexpected endings, Final Prayer (known as The Borderlands outside of the US) would be way closer to the top. Mixing religious skepticism with a hefty amount of spooks, Final Prayer bucks found footage trends by having characters you actually care about. There’s a bit of spotty logic (especially in the “who found this footage” department), but by the time the end rolls around you will be genuinely disturbed.


12) Afflicted (2013)

Answer quickly and honestly: would you be a vampire? Of course you would. Supernatural powers, living forever, homoerotic undertones with Tom Cruise, sounds great. If only you didn’t have to kill people to maintain your unholy existence… It’s that pesky little killing people catch that most people fail to really think about. It’s always touched upon in vampire movies, but is vastly overshadowed by the sexiness of eternal life and beauty. You just can’t really buy that the vampire is super upset about their endless bloodlust when they just look so fabulous while brooding.

Afflicted does things differently by taking this personal struggle and making it the focus of the film. Protagonist Derek Lee suffers from AVM, a malformation of the brain that can cause his death at any moment. Deciding to live life to the fullest rather than spend it in fear, Derek and his best friend Clif decide to travel the world. Documenting their trip for a series they call “Ends of the Earth,” their plans are altered dramatically when Derek comes down with a bad case of vampirism. Initially reveling in his new found strength and vitality, things take a darker turn when the bloodlust turns Derek into little more than an animal.

This is one of the rare films where the found footage style really works to enhance the film. You get an intimate sense of Derek’s personal struggle, caught in an impossible situation with no easy answer. But the story isn’t the only thing that sets Afflicted apart from other found footage films. The camerawork is smooth and clear, without any of the cheap “static” effects so common to the genre. It makes the frequent action scenes far more impressive, since you can actually see what’s going on. Even if you’re not a fan of found footage, chances are you’ll like Afflicted.


11) Rorschach (2015)

If I were to pick one reason why people are so tired of found footage, it would be that it’s predictable. Four friends investigating an asylum, you say? Perhaps you should start by establishing some pointless romantic tension that won’t enhance the plot at all. Maybe have a few false start scares involving puckish pranks and people jumping in front of the camera. Don’t forget to have a door close behind the main characters when none of them are looking! Nothing says spooky like ghosts emulating a strong breeze.

Now by all logic, Rorschach should have been a movie that did nothing special. Following a pair of paranormal investigators looking into a single mother and her daughter’s haunting, it’s the stock standard setup to a forgettable found footage movie. Hell, it’s even got a creepy doll, in case just plain ghosts wasn’t unoriginal enough. I watched the whole thing on YouTube of all places, and from minute one you can tell that these are amateurs with no budget.

So how come it’s on this list? Despite the clear lack of experience and budget (or perhaps even enhanced by it), Rorschach manages to feel incredibly real. The haunting is subtle, with small things like scratching at the walls and sweaters falling off of chairs. Shit never goes full crazy, and even during the film’s climax the most the ghost does is slam some doors. Hell, no one even dies in the movie, which must be a found footage first. If you’re looking for a slower burn that actually manages to use the found footage style to feel real and believable, Rorschach might just surprise you.


10) They’re Watching (2016)

A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I wrote a glowing review for They’re Watching in conflict with another Dread Central critic. It’s pretty rare that I’d outwardly go against another contributor like this, as even I must admit I’m frequently wrong about shit. Hell, I think I even gave The Gallows a 4/5 at some embarrassing point in the past. But in the case of They’re Watching, I just couldn’t keep quiet. This film is simply glorious.

I’ll have to curtail this a bit by saying that I don’t think anyone will be actually scared during They’re Watching. It’s pretty damning to say that a horror movie isn’t scary, but They’re Watching definitely leans to the comedy side of the horror/comedy marriage. From Moldovan Nathan Fillion to the bitchy producer Kate, the exaggerated characters give the movie far more life than your typical found footage fare. There’s a ton of little things they do to spice up the world, even inventing their own fake chocolate bar that you’d have no idea was fake if you didn’t google it.

But the real reason this movie is here is the ending. Oh sweet Jesus, the ending. It goes from a pretty subdued but believable comedy to 11/10 schlock in a split second. The glorious final 15 minutes are a cavalcade of gore and debauchery worthy of a Cenobite orgy. The first time I saw it, I literally hurt myself laughing. A dude gets turned into a pile of frogs for Christ’s sake. It’s the closest man will ever come to filmmaking perfection.


9) Marble Hornets (2009-2014)

When Slender Man first graced the Something Awful message boards back in 2009, no one could have predicted it would eventually lead to two girls stabbing someone in the woods. In the years since its creation, Slender Man has gone from obscure meme to full blown cultural icon. He’s got his own video game, several indie films, and billions of amateur knockoff stories. Chances are you’re already sick of Slender Man, and he hasn’t even gotten his major motion picture debut yet.

Chances are you have no idea about the long and complicated history of Slender Man. While not technically in the public domain, the character has been shaped by the modern internet zeitgeist. He’s more of a campfire story than a character, growing and changing with each new telling. And no Slender Man tale has been more influential than “Marble Hornets.”

Now I will warn you, don’t try to get into “Marble Hornets” unless you are willing to dive in head first. The series is 92 episodes long, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are numerous side channels, interwoven plots, and full blown theory boards that you’ll have to check out if you want to get the whole pictures. An entire alternate world has been set up around the events of the series, and the world is vast. This really is way more than just a series of YouTube videos.

As for the series itself, it’s undeniably rough. The acting is very stiff, and camerawork amateur. Camera malfunctions are now cliché, but “Marble Hornets” takes them to the max. Expect grating audio distortion and nauseating visual cuts in every single episode. But it’s part of what gives the series its charm. There’s so much going on, so vaguely explained and hinting at something much larger, that it practically begs you to comb through every episode looking for every detail. You’ll scan the screen, looking for something out of place in every scene. There’s really nothing else like this out there, something that you can really get lost in.


8) The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007)

I really struggled with putting this movie on the list. I’ve watched The Poughkeepsie Tapes twice, and doubt I ever will again. It’s not that the movie is bad. It’s just far too effective. The Poughkeepsie Tapes legitimately disturbs me.

Following the exploits of a serial killer that comes to be known as “The Water Street Butcher,” the footage they find is all filmed by the killer. We get to see first hand the killer’s sadistic exploits, and all too intimately. Without ever showing his face or explaining his motivations, we still get a sense of exactly who this man is. He’s pure evil.

The actual tapes themselves are sufficiently disturbing, but it’s only part of the picture. The crime documentary style interviews giving some context to his methodology paints an even larger pictures of a man who is not only sick, but incredibly intelligent. He does everything he can to avoid detection, tricking investigators at every turn. The extents that he goes to in services of his killing spree are truly fucked up. This is a game to him, and every move leaves a trail of bodies.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes created a villian that genuinely upset me. He isn’t some force of nature like Jason Voorhees or simple maniac like Leatherface. He’s methodical, calculating, and infinitely sadistic. He is the worst mankind has to offer, and his tapes give us shots into his depraved world. The scene towards the end with Cheryl sickened me. I don’t like The Poughkeepsie Tapes, but I respect the hell out of it.


7) Savageland (2015)

When you think “found footage,” you think shaky camcorder footage of a forest/abandoned asylum/whichever actor’s apartment had the least amount of empty pizza boxes. Savageland does things a bit different, with the footage in this case being from a camera, and not the moving picture kind. Styled like a crime documentary, the pictures tell the story of a horrifying attack by unknown forces on a small Arizona border town. The official story is that the sole survivor, an illegal immigrant and amateur photographer named Francisco Salazar, went on a killing spree and murdered the whole town. The story that his pictures tell is quite different.

You might think that telling a story through a series of photographs is counterintuitive, but the constraints give Savageland a unique feel. You never really get a clear picture (no pun intended) of what exactly is going on, instead piecing together the general story through individual moments. Salazar is dead by the time the cameras start rolling, so the various experts and theorists can only speculate as to what actually went down. It keeps you engaged, and lets the plot evolve past the simple monsters/zombies/demons/whatever they are. Fair warning, this does get fairly political, intersecting the struggle of an illegal immigrant in the US justice system with the monster story. It grounds Savageland in some reality, making it feel more like a true story than your typical horror movie.


6) Noroi: The Curse (2005)

I discovered the works of Kōji Shiraishi back when I was on a J-horror kick in college (read as trying to hook up with edgy anime chicks). Not widely known to western audiences, Shiraishi has made a number of found footage films that are all worth checking out. There are actually quite a lot of Japanese found footage films you’ve probably never heard of, including a direct sequel to Paranormal Activity called Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Nights. But when it comes to which one to recommend the most, Noroi was an easy pick.

Noroi sets itself apart by avoiding pretty much every single cliché you’ve come to expect from found footage. Practically devoid of jump scares, this slow burn relies on atmosphere and storytelling to slowly fill you with uneasy dread. You aren’t going to jump out of you seat (maybe at the end), but it will make you squirm. There’s an inescapable tension that permeates the film, like something terrible is lurking just behind a curtain. While most found footage movies would rip the blinds aside and have a screaming ghost jump at the screen, Noroi is content to just let you stare and try to make out its figure while the real monster slowly sneaks up behind you.


5) WNUF Halloween Special (2013)

This might be the most “found footage” found footage movie of all time. Rather than being comprised of some shit the cops found in the woods and then inexplicably edited together to make a movie, WNUF Halloween Special is designed to emulate a home VHS recording of a local news broadcast. No need to explain away the editing or wonder why they are still filming. Someone just popped in the VHS, hit record, then stuck the final product in a shoe box.

This is another that falls more on the comedy side of the horror/comedy scale, but I doubt you’ll mind. The stellar performances and spot-on tone perfectly emulates a small town local news broadcast from the 80’s. It takes you back to another era, complete with hokey commercial breaks for local businesses and segments where it fast forwards. Sure, it’s not very scary, but it’s endlessly enjoyable. Even having seen it a few times, it still manages to slap a smile on my face.


4) Dark Secrets (2013)

I have yet to meet a single other person that has seen “Dark Secrets.” It was on Netflix a while back, hidden in some non-category away from mortal eyes. I honestly don’t even remember how I stumbled on it, but I’m glad I did.

“Dark Secrets” is a 10 episode, single season show that mixes SCP, “Unsolved Mysteries,” and “The Twilight Zone.” Now if that sounds awesome to you, it should. I seriously have no idea why this isn’t more well known. The premise is that during a demolition of an abandoned industrial building, a locked door is found in the basement. Inside is an archive of all sorts of strange paranormal events, collected by an unknown individual known only as The Teller. Building on these files, the show interviews various witnesses and experts to try to get the whole story.

Now of course none of this is real, but there’s a hilarious trend on the IMDb page of people not getting that. Seriously, some of the major criticisms against this show are people saying that they think it’s a hoax. This is a show where the first episode is about a house that eats people. You have to give it credit for emulating a real “Unsolved Mysteries” type show so well that people thought a house eating people was supposed to be taken at face value.


3) Ghostwatch (1992)

Long before The Blair Witch Project would revolutionize film by making a generation of horror fans consistently motion sick, Ghostwatch shocked the UK. Styled to emulate a live BBC broadcast, Ghostwatch follows a group of reporters as they document the haunting of a single mother and her two daughters. Hounded by a ghost they call “Pipes,” the otherworldly assaults steadily escalate as the night continues. Unlike most other found footage films, it doesn’t just stick with the camera crew the whole time, instead switching between the studio footage and the crew at the house.

The effect is quite convincing, enough so that it caused a War of the Worlds style panic when it first aired. It’s reported that the BBC switchboards lit up with people trying to call into the “live” program, and there are actual reported cases of PTSD from children traumatized by the program. It was… a more innocent time. With decades of found footage seasoning my cynical mind, it doesn’t quite pack the same punch when watched today.

It doesn’t really matter though, since the movie is just damned scary. This is one of those films that really lives up to the promise of found footage. Things happen on screen that the characters don’t notice, and it’s up to the viewer to spot it. As recently as 2016 there have been new sightings of Pipes in the background of various shots. This is a film you can pick apart frame by frame to find all the hidden goodies. On top of that, it’s also damned scary. The haunting extends past the four walls of the family’s home, bleeding out to everyone watching. For the people that were fooled into thinking it was real, the effect must have been terrifying.


2) Lake Mungo (2008)

More than just a great found footage film, Lake Mungo is one of my favorite horror films, period. It’s my trump card when I need a movie I know both horror and non-horror fans will like. I’ve shown this to horror nuts, girlfriends, even my mother. All the while it still manages to be both interesting and genuinely frightening.

I don’t want to give too much of Lake Mungo away, as experiencing the twists and turns is a lot of what makes the film special. This isn’t what you expect. It’s about a haunting, but it becomes more than that. Aided by fantastic performances and a gradual pace that lets you come to know the characters naturally, the emotional core of Lake Mungo is miles above what you typically expect from horror. This movie will really get to you in ways you don’t expect.

It also doesn’t rely on cheap scares to be terrifying. A lot of build comes from simple descriptions from the main cast, making you wonder what you’re actually in store for. When the actual ghost does reveal itself, it’s slow, and without clear purpose. When you finally finish the film and it all comes together, you’ll want to go back to see what you missed the first time. This is a film that definitely benefits from repeat viewings. And if you’re like me, that won’t be a problem.


1) The Tunnel (2011)

If there is a theme for this list, it’s that the best found footage movies are the ones that do things different. There’s only so much you can get from four friends running around a dark building while doors slam. What makes The Tunnel exceptional is how it takes this basic premise and polishes it to a mirror shine.

The Tunnel follows an Australian news crew as they investigate a series of abandoned railway tunnels that have been mysteriously cordoned off by the government. Switching between present day interviews with the crew and the footage of their experience in the tunnels, you quickly find that there’s something far more sinister than they expected. While a story about four people being chased by a monster in the dark is pretty much the definition of stock standard found footage, the skipping of time and differing accounts raises it above its peers. The characters feel very real, and their different perspectives on what happened (and who to blame) gives the story a lot of mileage. The monster is also scary as shit, so bonus points.


Chances are, you aren’t going to like every movie on this list. That’s okay. I’m not trying to sell you on every found footage movie. Rather, I’m just trying to show you that found footage is far from dead. It might be stale, but that’s just because people keep doing the same thing with it. Between these 13 movies, you can see a wild variety that defies being crammed into a little box.

Now as you all know, Dread Central has partnered with Epic Pictures. Epic recently released The Monster Project on Amazon Prime, which a surprising amount of people I know are giving a pass simply because it’s found footage. It’s troubling to me, since I found The Monster Project to be a hell of a lot of fun.

Hopefully, something on this list will surprise and delight you. And if it does, maybe it’ll open up your heart a little to found footage. Not all the way of course, not everyone can binge watch crap like I can. But enough to at least give new found footage movies a second glance. Then maybe check out The Monster Project. It’s got a vampire, demon, and werewolf, all at the same time!

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Four Things You May Have Overlooked in IT

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This week saw the home video release of Andy Muschietti’s IT (review), the 2017 horror smash success that brought in nearly $700 million worldwide, a staggeringly high number for any genre of film, much less horror. Since the film has hit shelves at your local retailer, we wanted to do a fun little post where we highlight four moments in the film that you may have missed the first time you saw it.

In fact, it’s little things like this that keep me coming back to revisit movies multiple times. There’s a certain amount of joy in watching a movie and finding something new, even if it’s small. It gives you a reason to love that film all over again, all because you can appreciate one of those “little things” that are so precious and delightful.

So, without further ado, here are four things that you possibly overlooked when watching IT!


1) The Creepy Library Lady

Alright, this is probably the most obvious one but considering the intensity of the scene, it’s theoretically possible that this one slipped you by.

When Ben is in the library researching the dark and bloody past of Derry, there’s a woman in the background (who is never focused on directly) who stops looking at whatever books are in her aisle so that she can stare extremely creepily at him. She even appears closer and closer with each revisit to a shot of Ben, her presence looming like a shadow who just so happens to be wearing a grandmotherly floral dress, a dark grin adorning her face.

Then, when Ben gets up to investigate the mysterious red balloon that seemingly levitates across the room, that lovely, terrifying old lady is right back at the books, acting like she wasn’t just the creepiest thing to happen in the past few minutes. I’m onto you, Granny. I’m onto you…


2) The Upside-Down Chumash

This is one that many people may overlook simply because they don’t know Hebrew! When Stan is practicing for his Bar Mitzvah, his father chides him for his mistakes, seemingly disgusted that the “son of a rabbi” could do so poorly. Whatever will the townsfolk think of him if his progeny says “Barook” instead of “Baruch”?

Fed up, Stan’s father tells him to take his Chumash to the study, whereupon Stan closes it to reveal a slight and quite humorous goof: the Chumash is upside-down!

As a Jew, I’ll be the first to admit that Hebrew can be a very strange looking language to those who don’t see it with any frequency. In fact, I found this error to be kind of endearing instead of offensive, as some might think. It’s such a harmless, innocent mistake that I can’t help but shake my head with a smile and wish I’d been there to wordlessly flip the book around, pat Wyatt Oleff’s shoulder, chuckle a bit, and walk away.

“No gelt for you this Hanukkah!”


3) Pennywise’s Pyramid

This one falls more into the realm of trivia than something that might’ve been overlooked, especially because we never really got a clear, up close look at Pennywise’s sewer pyramid. However, I can tell you from having been on the set of IT that the tower of clothing and toys has a very cool little gimmick behind it: as you go higher up on the tower, the more you’ll notice that the clothes are cleaner and the toys are newer. That’s because Pennywise has been doing this for so long that he continuously stacks all those belongings on top of the old ones, leaving antiques at the bottom and more modern items at the top. Next time you watch the movie, see if you can spot this in those rare moments where the camera is higher up on the pyramid!

“This better not be some clown pyramid scheme, I swear to God…”


4) Tim Curry’s Pennywise

This one might be me cheating a little since I wrote about this after a trailer for the film had been released. That being said, not everyone who saw the movie saw my post, which is why I’m bringing this back up.

When the kids venture into the Neibolt St. house, there’s a part where Richie is locked in a room with a ton of clown statues and dolls. Filled with coulrophobia, Richie is clearly terrified and haunted by these overly cheerful visions. But one particular design stands out amongst the others because it’s a direct homage to Tim Curry’s design from the 1990 miniseries. Bearing that same elongated, porcelain head and the bright red skullet (it’s a thing, I promise), there’s no denying this nod to Tommy Lee Wallace’s adaptation.

“Is this some kind of weird “Take your kid to work day” thing I’m not aware of?”


You can pick up IT on Blu-ray through Amazon.


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