“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
10 Terrifying Moments from Kids’ Movies That Haunted Our Childhoods
When the trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story dropped a couple weeks ago, I watched it with a tinge of dread. See, Han Solo traumatized me as a child. I was 7-years-old when I saw The Empire Strikes Back in theaters, and the scene where Harrison Ford gets tortured at Cloud City gave me my first bona fide panic attack. It was dark, intense, and completely out of left field in an otherwise fantastic franchise where no one ever bleeds (or screams).
I might be the only one who had such an adverse reaction to Solo’s torture (which happens, primarily, off-screen), but those of us who came of age in the 1980s can probably relate to encountering terrifying moments in otherwise kid-friendly films. For the most part, these were the days before PG-13, meaning there was a ton of leeway for movies that fell in between the extremes of Cinderella and The Shining.
In retrospect, 1980s kids were subjected to a litany of scares that would be considered highly inappropriate by today’s standards—perhaps explaining our generations’ intense love of horror! Return with me now to those terrifying days of yesteryear with 10 terrifying moments from kids’ movies that haunted our childhoods!
The Tunnel of Terror in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
The only film on this list that wasn’t produced and released in the 1980s (and the only one I didn’t see in theaters) is nonetheless one every child of the era has seen: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory from 1971. I remember my parents telling me that I was in for a treat when they sat me down in front of the TV at the tender age of 6.
I was already unnerved by the tall man in the trench coat and the bizarre antics of Gene Wilder’s Wonka, but that boat-ride scene completely destroyed my childhood. It wasn’t even the chicken decapitation or the centipedes that rattled me; it was Wonka’s unhinged shrieking! To this day, the scene gives me the willies (pun intended!); Wilder truly channels the dangerous intensity of a lunatic.
Gmork attacks Atreyu in The NeverEnding Story (1984)
The NeverEnding Story was an exciting alternative in the Disney-dominated landscape of kids’ movies in the 1980s—exciting and dark! But a kid trapped in an attic, a horse drowning in a swamp, a nihilistic turtle, and a devastating void all paled in comparison to Atreyu’s confrontation with the insidious Gmork.
Those green eyes staring out from the cave froze my blood. The fact that it could speak made it infinitely more terrifying; this wasn’t some primal beast, this agent of The Great Nothing was a cunning and merciless villain. The matter-of-fact way it informed Atreyu that he would be his last “victim” was beyond bleak. When the monster attacked as thunder roared and lightning struck, I screamed.
Though many aspects of The NeverEnding Story show their age, this moment remains, objectively, as scary as any horror movie werewolf attack.
The Wheelers Descend in Return to Oz (1985)
When Dorothy (played by Judy Garland) first arrived in Oz back in 1939, she was greeted by a community of cheerful Munchkins. When Dorothy (reprised by Fairuza Balk) returned to Oz in 1985, her reception was much colder.
The eerie silence of a seemingly abandoned wasteland was broken by an assault by Wheelers: colorful, mechanically enhanced cousins of the Wicked Witch’s flying monkeys. As adults, we can laugh at the impracticality of villains who can’t even maneuver stairs, but we weren’t laughing as kids, I can promise you that!
While the hall of heads, an unintentionally terrifying Jack Pumpkinhead, and a truly demonic Gnome King are perhaps the scariest moments of Return to Oz, the sudden and unexpected arrival of the Wheelers was a truly devastating moment. It obliterated all our happy memories of Oz in an instant, transforming the land of enchantment into a labyrinth of evil.
Large Marge Tells her Tale in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Many of the films on this list are dark from start to finish, containing multiple terrifying moments. But part of what makes the tale of Large Marge so impactful is that it appears in an otherwise completely lighthearted film. Sure, man-child Pee-wee Herman has always been subversive in ways that only become apparent as we get older, but he never dabbled in ghost stories or jump scares.
Luckily, the scary face of Large Marge was as funny as it was shocking, so even though kids like me hit the ceiling, our fears quickly dissolved into fits of hysterical laughter. Today, I remember practically nothing about Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, but I’ll have fond memories of Large Marge until the day I die.
The Emperor Turns to Ash in The Dark Crystal (1982)
Over 35 years after it’s release, The Dark Crystal remains a unique and beautiful anomaly. Jim Henson’s G-rated Muppets were left in the workshop! This film was populated by fascinating and terrifying characters, conveying a tale that wasn’t dumbed down for its audience. These factors give the film profound resonance and contribute to its status as an enduring classic
Like the title warns, this film is dark. The Skeksis are demonic, Augrah is arresting, and the Garthim are pure nightmare fuel. The process of draining Pod People of the essence and the stabbing death of Kira are horrifying. But it was the death of the Skeksis Emperor that really hit me like a ton of bricks.
There was something metaphysically terrifying about this moment; not only is the idea of a creature crumbling into ash creepy as hell but the effect was gasp-inducing. As a child, it was something I’d never seen before, a concept I’d never imagined, and it floored me. Death had never been conveyed with such shocking profundity.
The Lab Rats are Injected in The Secret of NIMH (1982)
When I sat in the theater in 1982, I don’t think I realized that The Secret of NIMH wasn’t a Disney movie, but I realized soon enough Mickey and Minnie weren’t hangin’ with these rodents! The Great Owl was petrifying and the finale was as harrowing as anything my young psyche had yet experienced, but it was the flashback of experiments conducted on lab rats that stuck with me and haunted my childhood.
It wasn’t just the brilliant animation that powerfully conveyed the rats’ pain as syringes were plunged into their bellies, it was a brutal moment of education they don’t teach kids in school. It was my first introduction to the realities of animal experimentation, and the fact that grown-ups would perpetrate such atrocities felt like a betrayal
The Ending of Time Bandits (1981)
In retrospect, it was irresponsible for any of our parents to think that Time Bandits was a kids’ movie just because the main character was an 11-year-old boy. In 1981, the only other film Terry Gilliam had directed was Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Yes, Time Bandits is funny and exciting with motifs common to kid-friendly time-travel fiction, but the film is nearly hopelessly bleak from start to finish.
Kevin (played by Craig Warnock) is completely neglected by his parents and essentially kidnapped by a troop of interdimensional robbers. He’s made complicit in a series of crimes throughout many dangerous eras, forced to endure wars and even the sinking of the Titanic. Eventually, Kevin is dragged into a realm of ultimate darkness. Though triumphing over Evil personified, he’s abandoned by God before returning home—only to find his home engulfed in a blazing inferno.
Though rescued by firemen, Kevin’s parents didn’t even realize he was missing and are soon reduced to piles of ash by a stray bit of concentrated evil. The friendly firemen take little notice, leaving our young protagonist utterly alone.
Faces Melt in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
A lot of my peers will count the human sacrifice scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as one of the most terrifying moments of their childhood. Not me. After what I’d endured in Raiders of the Lost Ark, I was ready for anything.
Since it gets less attention than its predecessor (bonus fact: Temple of Doom is a prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark), I think people forget just how scary Raiders really is. It’s worlds darker and grittier than Doom, which has a colorful, comic book pallet by comparison, not to mention a clear emphasis on comedy. The spiders, the snakes, the boobytraps: they all put monkey brains and extracted hearts to shame.
But the climax of Raiders of the Lost Ark is more intense than most horror movies, past and present. The face-melting evoked Cold War Era fears of nuclear annihilation and the idea of a vengeful God was devastating.
The Death of Shoe in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
I wasn’t always the jaded gorehound I am today; I was young and sensitive once. And even though I was well into puberty by 1988 (or maybe because of it) I was especially traumatized by a moment in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The hard-boiled plot loaded with barely veiled sexual innuendo was, for the most part, completely buried beneath a cacophony of cameos from just about every cartoon character ever penned.
But it wasn’t the fever-nightmare of Roger’s mania or even the emergence of Judge Doom’s true form that devastated me; it was the execution of poor Shoe, a paradigm of animated innocence unceremoniously dropped into a barrel of “dip” (a toxic concoction made from turpentine, acetone, and benzene).
Most kids in their early teens couldn’t stop thinking about Jessica Rabbit; I was haunted by the death of Shoe.
Supercomputer Makes a Human Cyborg in Superman III (1983)
There’s an evil streak that runs throughout Superman III, the third film to feature Christopher Reeves as the titular Man of Steel. While Superman II had its dark spots (specifically the devastation caused by Zod and his companions) there’s an undercurrent in Richard Lester’s follow-up that’s absolutely wicked—containing a scene that contributed to the destruction of my childhood.
A makeshift batch of Kryptonite turns Superman into an immoral, selfish thug before he participates in a troubling fight to the death with himself. But as unsettling as the concept of an evil Superman may be, the scene where the supercomputer turns Vera into a cyborg was some next level shit for 10-year-old me.
I re-watched the scene in preparation for this article and was shocked at its similarities to the moment in Hellraiser II when Dr. Channard is transformed into a Cenobite—especially the wires! No wonder it scared the hell out of me!
Five Chilling Period Haunted House Movies
One of the joys of horror is that it’s timeless. Urban legends featuring terrifying creatures have been the basis of countless stories, movies, games, and shows. The fear of the future is ever present in movies like The Cloverfield Paradox and Pulse while the past haunts us in The Witch, The Masque of Red Death, and Black Death. There isn’t a period of time that finds itself free from fear. At every turn in history, the fear of the unknown (as well as the known) has plagued the minds of populations, no matter where they are on this planet.
Tonight, advance screenings of The Lodgers begin across the country. In the Brian O’Malley-directed film, twin brother and sister Edward and Rachel are held to their ancestral home by strange and terrifying spirits. When Rachel falls in love and aims to break the rules she is strangled by, everything begins to fall apart. Set in early World War 1-era Ireland with much of the film taking place in the historic Loftus Hall, The Lodgers is a beautiful entry in period horror films.
If you go to one of the screenings we have lined up and find yourselves craving something similar, here are a few titles that may just scratch that itch!
Directed by Alejandro Amenábar, this phenomenal film follows Nicole Kidman and her two children as they await the return of their father (her husband) from World War II. Her children, who suffer from extreme photosensitivity, can only live in darkness, the blinds constantly drawn and the outside a potential death trap. When three caretakers arrive to help the family, strange occurrences begin happening and the family become convinced that they are being haunted.
The winner of a staggeringly high amount of awards from the Goya Awards, Saturn Awards, Online Film Critics, and more, The Others became a smash hit via strong word of mouth, resulting in phenomenal near-$210 million box office pull.
Following the story of Sarah Winchester, the heiress of the Winchester Rifle Company, and her mission to build a mansion that contains the ghosts of those killed by her company’s wares, Winchester may have received a tepid reception from critics and fans alike; but there is no denying that it absolutely bathes in its production design. You may not get the scares you’re after, but you’ll certainly get a visually captivating experience.
Voice From the Stone
A far more muted kind of horror film, Voice From the Stone delights in the texture of its location. The cracks in the walls, the way hands slide against a sculpture, the way the local flora sways in the breeze… All of this is coupled with a romance story set against the threat of jealousy from beyond the grave. Touching and emotional, Voice From the Stone is a beautiful kind of horror.
The Woman in Black
Perhaps most “horror” of films on this list, The Woman in Black is about as Gothic as one can get. Dark hallways, a foreboding landscape, and an ever-present threat of ghostly terror around every corner all make for a film that should not be watched in the dark…unless you want to be scared when you turn off the lights in your own home.
While marketed as a horror film, Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak is far more invested in its romance than the scares it has to offer. Yes, it’s full of ghosts and practical FX and takes place in a dilapidated English mansion, but the focus relies more heavily on the relationships in the film than the horrors lurking within the walls of Allerdale Hall. Visually beautiful – it’s a del Toro film, so who expects anything else? – and full of absolutely stunning production design, Crimson Peak was well-received and will make a wonderful double feature with The Lodgers.
Venture Into These Influential Horror Movies Set in the Woods
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.” – Robert Frost
There is something inherently terrifying to me about horror films set in the woods. This may seem strange to those who know me since I live in a state that is known for its bountiful forests. Hell, as I look out my window while typing this, I see an endless horizon of treetops the branches poking and prodding the sky.
I’m not sure if it’s the inability to see around oneself without obstruction or if it’s hearing the sound of nature’s animals but rarely seeing them that sets me on edge. What I do know is that forests are exceptional at hiding things from those they don’t wish to see. That inability to know one’s surroundings, as well as what inhabits them, is haunting. What lurks around that thicket? What’s waiting underneath that pile of leaves? What waits in amidst the branches overhead, biding its time before it strikes?
These questions, and more, always linger in my mind whenever I watch a horror film set in a forest. It’s why they are usually so effective at haunting me for days on end. And with David Bruckner’s terrifying looking The Ritual available now on Netflix, I wanted to revisit some films that I believe use the woods to extraordinary effect. Having seen The Ritual, I can give you my personal guarantee that Bruckner effectively uses the setting of a Scandinavian forest to his full advantage, turning what should be a picturesque landscape of tranquility and beauty into a phantasmagoria of haunting visions that make every square inch of foliage appear threatening.
Let me know what you think in the comments below, especially if I missed something!
Neil Marshall’s debut feature-length film not only reinvigorated the werewolf genre, it’s remained an enduring title that receives well-deserved love from the horror community.
Following a group of soldiers on a training mission in the Scottish Highlands who are attacked by a group of werewolves, Dog Soldiers features a fantastic cast including Sean Pertwee and Liam Cunningham. It makes wonderful use of its setting, allowing the creatures to lurk in the trees before striking with deadly force.
Sam Raimi’s classic cult horror film sends a group of college students to a secluded cabin where a recording of a demonic incantation raises evil forces that possess and pick them off one at a time. Creating a horror film that is remembered for decades after its release is no easy feat but creating a franchise that is beloved through an entire community and is still going to this day? Kudos, ladies and gentlemen. Kudos all around!
Tucker & Dale vs Evil
Perhaps one of the most entertaining horror comedies to ever be released, Tucker & Dale Vs Evil is not just a fantastic film, it’s a magnificent spoof on the “inbred hostile redneck” subgenre, which primarily takes place in the woods. Poking fun at Deliverance, Wrong Turn, The Hills Have Eyes, and the like, the film could never have worked had it not been set in the stereotypical “cabin in the woods”. Many films have tried to capture the same magic and heart that Tucker & Dale possesses but very few have come even remotely close.
The Cabin in the Woods
Coming off one of the greatest spoofs of the “cabin in the wood” trope to one of the most clever satirical commentaries on horror, The Cabin in the Woods was, and still is, a fantastic horror film that faces its tropes, welcomes them with open arms, and then finds ways to make them feel fresh again. Now if only we can hear what’s going on with that potential sequel…
The most recent entry on this list, A24’s The Witch was critically lauded and remains one of the most fascinating theatrical experiences I’ve had in a long time. Utilizing brilliant sound design, haunting music, and a forest that loomed over a dysfunctional family like some hungered beast waiting to strike, The Witch has haunted countless viewers while remaining one of the most discussed horror films in the past couple of years. Rightfully so, I might add. It’ll be very interesting to see how The Witch influences horror to come.
Friday the 13th
Can I really talk about influential horror movies that take place in the woods without bringing up the Friday the 13th franchise? Even Jason X, which took place in freaking space, brought it back to Camp Crystal Lake and made use of the trees!
Now, some could argue that a campground isn’t the same as being caught up in the woods or even that it’s different from a standard “cabin in the woods” scenario. To that I say bollocks! They’re miles from help and the forest is oppressively bearing down upon them at pretty much every turn. The killer can be lurking behind any tree, coming at you from any direction… Your campground isn’t safe if it’s surrounded!
The Blair Witch Project
This is it. This may very well be the most influential horror movie to take place in the woods. Obviously one could make the argument that Cannibal Holocaust was the reason that The Blair Witch Project even exists but I believe that Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez’s film did more for horror in the long run, not just as what many believe to be the foundation for modern day found footage but also because of its brilliant marketing campaign. The impact of The Blair Witch Project is still being felt to this day and I don’t see that stopping anytime soon.
The Ritual stars Rafe Spall, Robert James-Collier, and Sam Troughton. It is based on Adam Nevell’s horror novel of the same name.
Reuniting after the tragic death of their best mate, four old friends from university set out to hike through the Scandinavian wilderness. But a wrong turn leads them into the dark and mysterious forests of Norse legend, where an ancient evil still exists and stalks them at every turn.
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