Horrorfest 2013 Presents: The Innkeepers (2012, Ti West)

Even though I slightly prefer The House of The Devil, Ti West’s 2012 film The Innkeepers is a nice followup and was just as creepy. In fact this movie almost gave me a heart attack at times, especially with the freaky moments that kept lying just around the corner. The old inn that sarcastic Luke and naive Claire work at is an excellent place for a ghost story driven film, although granted most hotels, inns, motels and the like are usually perfect for horror movies. As The Shinning (1980) can attest to, and just like in that film the characters in this one are being affected by the place they are working at. The Yankee Pedlar Inn is an old place, and its finally being closed for business after over a century of being open. Luke and Claire are the two low wage employees tasked with overseeing the building while the master of the inn is away. Boredom sets in and they decide to investigate whether or not the inn is haunted by Madeline O’Malley, which leads to all kinds of trouble of course.

Really I love that Ti West specializes in quiet, atmospheric horror, which is why I’m not too surprised detractors of films like these call them “Boring.” Look there are actually jump scares in this one, yet I felt that West was mocking the use of such a device to frighten viewers. There is more humor in this movie than in The House of the Devil, and it works as a slight tension reliever while also lulling the viewers into a false sense of security. A couple scenes are downright spooky, particularly one where Claire and Luke are alone in a deep, black pitched basement, and another moment that I will only describe as being the material for nightmare fuel. Even so at times I found Claire’s character to be a tad annoying, where as Luke made a great foil for Claire and was the best element of the film.

Having Kelly McGillis play a psychic/alcoholic actress was a nice touch, and unlike some I didn’t mind the ending too much. While the last act does feature some questionable behavior I take it as the actions of someone who had become rather unstable, and its therefore a mixture of terrifying and tragic. Unfortunately Ti West’s The Roost is not available on Netflix, however his other works are and I look forward to seeing those as well. I would rather like it if he made a slasher movie for some reason, as West’s gift for making super creepy movies that get under you skin would serve him well there, I think.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: The House of the Devil (2009, Ti West)

Despite putting this and The Innkeepers off for over a year even though both are on Netflix Instant Viewing, I decided to finally watch The House of the Devil and find out why so many people enjoy Ti West’s work. He is a fairly new filmmaker, having only made a handful of movies-the earliest according to Criticker being released in 2005-and he’s already gathered some acclaim from horror fans and even critics. The House of the Devil is a well made and atmospheric throwback to 1970s and 1980s horror movies, and the film’s low-budget resulted in it being even self-style just like the same low-budget 70s and 80s horror movies its inspired by. However it’s a fairly original work, and the film is very slow burning, with West giving the audience time to soak in the high level of creepy that underlies most of the film’s scenes.

I love the opening credits, with the young heroine Samantha walking along her college campus, rock music blaring in the background, headphones perched on her ears, long brunette hair hanging over her jacket as she strolls along, unaware that she is about to enter a strange new world. The job is fairly simple: babysitting. Problem is, Sam is not babysitting a couple of kids in the suburbs; no she has been hired by an elderly couple to watch over the wife’s mother. In a creepy old house in the middle of the countryside. Oh and the elderly couple hiring her is played by legends Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov. No big deal, right? Well as us horror fans know, anytime you babysit is just an excuse for bad things to happen to you.


Still West hangs back, utilizing only one really freaky jump scare, letting the audience become further alarmed at what is transpiring, letting the viewer’s get more and more into the movie. I prefer this approach even though at times I felt a tad bored, as the payoff ends up being rather enormous, the climax utterly terrifying. There’s something about a movie that creeps you out the entire time while still holding one last card in the deck, guaranteed to leave you feeling really uneasy after you exit the theater. The Blair Witch Project comes to mind in that regard as well, another movie heavy on atmosphere with a fantastic payoff.

Jocelin Donahue as Sam is fantastic here, displaying a like able presence, being the film’s main anchor and giving it credibility as things begin to turn weird. Also its really cool that West had famous horror scream queen Dee Wallace make a cameo appearance as “The Landlady,” although I wish she had been in the film more. Oh and I love how sparse and yet engaging the film’s set design was, in addition to the use of color. Especially white, which could mean something but I would have to view the film again to decide said meaning. Some things leave you with more questions than answers.

Top 20 Horror Films of the 2000s Presents: Dog Soldiers (2002)

    10.    Dog Soldiers (2002, Neil Marshall)

In 2002 Neil Marshall burst onto the horror movie scene with Dog Soldiers, a film that is owes its existence to Aliens, Tremors, and a ton of other horror movies. I love that the film references those other movies while also building on its own mythology, in turn becoming a pretty good-maybe even great-werewolf movie. The werewolf sub-genre of horror films has seen many great entries over the last couple of decades, and the original classic The Wolfman cannot be forgotten, either. Dog Soldiers is a brutal, nasty and entertaining werewolf movie, full of humor and gore, anchored by memorable characters-particularly Spoon-and being rather twisty and surprising right until the end. The siege elements work particularly well, bringing together some of the film’s unlikely bedfellows and resulting in some of the movie’s best moments. And of course one cannot forget how the film opens in typical cool and violent werewolf fashion. Never go camping in the woods on a full moon people.

Taking place in the Scottish woodlands, Dog Soldiers is about a group of military men who end up battling an unknown enemy that turns out to be very supernatural. At first operating in disbelief, the men come to realize that they are up against a force that cannot be killed by ordinary bullets. Creatures that are furry, angry, and very hungry. For human blood and flesh, with a nasty bite that results in the surviving victim turning into the monsters themselves. From that point on Dog Soldiers is relentless, never letting up and etching its place in horror movie history as being one of the best direct to video movies ever made. Beware the full moon, and if you closely you can hear the growling and the howls of a beast of the night, hunting your every move. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Top 20 Horror Films of the 2000s Presents: Zombieland (2009)

11.    Zombieland (2009, Ruben Fleischer)

Look I am well aware that a few scenes aside this movie isn’t even remotely scary, and that are more entertaining and better zombie films out there. Yet Zombieland makes the list because I loved watching it in theaters, and because its a really well made zombie comedy with a great cast and plenty of gory fun moments. Woody Harrelson takes this movie over and is its best character, slaughtering hapless zombies with reckless abandon while a before The Social Network Jessie Eisenberg has a solid voice over narration with some good jokes sprinkled in that doesn’t managed to be annoying. We all like to think we would be Tallahassee in the Zombie Apocalypse, but most of us would be Columbus instead. That’s not a bad thing since Columbus slowly evolves into a likable human being actually capable of dealing with existing in a world gone horribly sour-a place where one wrong move results in a hungry formally human monster devouring your flesh. Oh and I loved the opening scene of the film followed by the Metallica scored credits, mostly due to it being hilarious but also surprisingly creepy.

Having Columbus keep a series of rules to surviving the end of human civilization is one of the movie’s best running jokes, and the film even sees him adding new ones. Too bad they didn’t have time to go through all of them, although maybe they were planning to save some for the sequel that has sadly not materialized yet. For the record I had only heard of Emma Stone at the time of this movie’s release, but I didn’t realize she had a natural gift for comedy in addition to being rather beautiful. I should view more of her movies. Everyone gear up for a trip to Pacific Playland. And don’t forget to double tap.

Top 10 Horror Movies of the 2000s

With some feature commentary, too.

1.) Antichrist (2009)

Von Trier stated that he failed to make a horror movie, yet perhaps he was being sly or understating this movie somehow. Graphic, disturbing, violent, and dealing with a battle of the sexes that takes place in a hostile nature environment, this film doesn’t pull any punches. Its also another reminder that staying in a cabin in the woods is a terrible idea.

2.) 28 Days Later (2002)

Never mind the debate about whether or not they are zombies, for it takes away from the fact that this is a great, depressing film that manages to be rather claustrophobic, too. The characters never really ever feel safe, and the last act not only borrows from Romero but even presents its own spin on certain topics that the master of zombie horror addressed in his classic Day of the Dead (1985).

3.) Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Hilarious, witty, sharp, and both a funny send up of the genre and a loving homage to zombie movies, this is an awesome zombie-rom-com that is smartly written and paced. The two leads are really likable, and this film observes one of the main rules of zombie movies: feature characters that the audience can relate to and root for.

4.) Ginger Snaps (2000)

So much blood, and a decent amount of gore are part of this feminist take on werewolves. Two sisters end up in a huge mess, and it quickly spirals out of control, as body mutilation and the onslaught of womanhood take hold. Probably one of the best werewolf movies ever made.

5.) Slither (2006)

Both a really funny and slick horror film in addition to being disgusting and gross, James Gunn puts his own unique stamp on the “Alien slugs” subgenre. Features an excellent (as usual) performance from Nathan Fillion, but its Henry Gregg that steals the movie as the endless quote machine mayor. “That bitch is hardcore.”

6.) Zombieland (2009)

Different from Shaun of the Dead in that it is only a straight up comedy with zombies involved. The cast is fantastic, the jokes are well written, and the movie is endlessly entertaining. Clearly a new modern favorite, and I’m still hoping for a sequel.

7.) Dog Soldiers (2002)

Another fine example of a good werewolf movie, even as it admittedly borrows from other horror and sci-fi movies. Spoon is one of the coolest horror characters ever, and the film never really lets up after a good solid and more quiet beginning. Seems most of the good werewolf movies have been made in the last 20-25 years (the original The Wolfman still a classic, though).

8.) Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2007)

Insanely unique, twisted, and clever, there’s something fascinating about this movie even though it uses “This is being filmed live” brand of film making that has become really popular thanks to The Blair Witch Project. Leslie is actually a really entertaining and lively character despite being the villain-its really interesting how in slasher movies the killer is typically not only front and center, but a tad disturbingly easy to root for. Stick around for the end credits.

9.) The Call of Cthullu (2005)

Despite being way too short, this is still a really cool black and white silent film adaptation of one of Lovecraft’s most famous works. Mostly on this list also for not featuring any CGI, as the practical effects look good. It would be great if the creators of this movie went on to make others like it, using the same techniques.

10.) Cloverfield (2008)

One of the best monster movies of the past 25 years, and it actually has some good scares. The tunnel scene is utterly terrifying, and the monster is properly gigantic, tearing through NYC. Perhaps really about Sept. 11, or at least touching upon some of that terrible day, but regardless well directed and well shot.

The Rest of the List:

11. The Host (2006)-90, monsters
12. Let The Right One In (2008)-90, vampires
13. Pulse aka Kairo (2001)-90, ghosts
14. Dawn of the Dead (2004)-90, zombies
15. Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)-90, undead
16. Paranormal Activity (2009)-90, demons
17. The Crazies (2010)-88, monsters
18. Freddy Vs. Jason (2003)-87, slasher
19. Trick ‘r’ Treat (2008)-85, anthology
20. Dance of the Dead (2008)-85, zombies

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