On October 14th Lucky McKee’s new film The Woman (review here), adapted from the Jack Ketchum novel, will open in limited release. It’s the story of a feral woman and the unfortunate family who attempts to civilize her. Believe me, this chick needs more than finishing school.
To help usher in The Woman, we thought it would be cool to compile a list of 10 of horror’s favorite psycho chicks. Yeah, scream queens are one thing, but these ladies are of a completely different ilk. These ladies bring the pain. Here are the 10, in no particular order …
Let’s start off the list with a psycho lady that’s got it all. Baby Firefly is hot as hell, horny, vicious and absolutely devoid of mercy. But on top of her obvious physical beauty and bloodletting skills, Baby tends to bring a bit of levity to her scenes. Need I remind you of “Tutti fuckin’ frutti”? Throughout the course of two films we see Baby harden and grow colder, culminating in the climactic finality of Rejects. Going down in a shower of gunfire and fighting right to the end, Baby Firefly was the definition of an antihero.
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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