Posts Tagged ‘Sleepaway Camp’

My favorite films surrounding my remote control.

You know, this may not be the biggest issue in my life. And it may not be the meaningful thing I could write about on this blog. But you know, it’s something I find myself pondering from time to time. What do my Top 6 Favorite Horror Movies say about me and my interests?

(It used to be 7, but I realized while making my list that while I enjoyed the film, it wasn’t something I would gladly watch again and again and again, just say the word go. Also, my tastes change over time, so this list could look very different in ten or even five years, as well as grow or shrink.)

But what does it say about me that I enjoy these particular films? What about them draws me to them? I tried to figure it out by listing them and then listing what I liked about them. Here are the films in question:

Perfect Blue (1997)
Based on the novel by Yoshikazu Takeuchi and directed by Satoshi Kon, Mima Kirigoe is a J-Pop idol who is forced by her agency to transition into acting. This and a violent stalker sends Mima into a violent psychological down-spiral, one which may very well claim her life.

  • One of the few good examples of anime horror I’ve come across in my life. The art style is also excellent, where characters and scenes are animated with a sense of realism rather than the usual anime exaggerations. This gives the horror a certain sense of realism that you wouldn’t normally find in anime.
  • The movie works to make you question, along with Mima, every moment of reality. What is real, what isn’t, what’s a dream, what’s part of Mima’s TV drama and what’s her actual life. It’s all up for debate throughout the movie, with the use of color, quiet scenes vs acting and dancing scenes, and repetition of events making you feel the disorientation Mima feels. All leading up to a final third with a horrific twist.

Color Out of Space (2020)
Starring Nicholas Cage and based on the novella by HP Lovecraft (one of my favorites by him, BTW), a meteor falls in a small West Virginia farm, giving off an odd color that can’t really be categorized. Soon after, strange events start happening on the farm, changing the plant life, the family, and reality itself. All leading to a devastating conclusion.

  • Ask most film critics, it’s one of the best HP Lovecraft/Lovecraftian horror adaptations ever made.
  • The film’s very misleading, at first playing up Cage’s penchant for odd acting and adding in plenty of comedy. Later on, however, Cage’s performance goes from funny to sinister, and the humor vanishes as the number of scary events occur and build, filling with you with dread.
  • The mix of practical effects and CGI is well done, with the latter only being employed as absolutely needed and the former being used enough to make fans of The Thing proud. This allows for the final scenes to be really horrifying, even when chock-full of CGI.
  • Just watch the cutting board and alpacas in the barn scenes. You’ll be scarred for life.

Overlord (2018)
During the D-Day invasion, a small troop of American soldiers sneak into a French town to take out the Nazi’s radio tower, preventing the Nazis from calling for help. What follows is a harrowing ride through hell as the team confronts not just Nazis and the horrors of war, but deadly experiments that may end up changing the tide of the war.

  • Despite being a “Nazi zombie” film, which is usually silly or played for laughs, this film plays it much more seriously. The zombies are almost a secondary feature of the film. The real emphasis is on how war scars and changes you, how horrible the drive to win can make a person, and how war brings out the depravity in all of us. When the zombies are on screen, they’re used sparingly, only to heighten the horror and the stakes.
  • During the scenes where the protagonist explores the laboratory, the emphasis on mood and atmosphere creates a powerful dread of what’s around every corner, under every sheet. If you’ve ever seen or played the game Outlast, it often feels like you’re in the middle of that game, and that is a terrifying thought to have.

Sleepaway Camp (1983)
As a young girl, Angela sees her father and brother killed in an accident on a lake adjacent to Camp Arawak. Years later as a teen, Angela and her cousin Ricky go as campers, only for a strange series of deaths to ruin the summer fun. And in the center of it all, Angela seems to be a fixture.

Who else had their mind blown by this moment in the film?
  • This is a rather unique 80’s slasher. For one thing, the campers are all played by actual teens and tweens, rather than adults pretending to be teens. Coupled with the teens language and behavior, it often reminds me of my own camping days, except less Jewish and more murder-y.
  • There are also prolonged periods between (admittedly inventive) kills, which allows you to really get to know the characters and remind you that these are just kids. This makes each instance of death even more shocking and brutal than it would be if they were in your face one after the other.
  • The twist in this movie is rather famous and forces the viewer to recontextualize everything in a new light. I won’t say what happens, but ooh boy, it’s not the sort of thing you could do today. I’d be interested to see how a remake handles this twist and reworks it for a modern audience. Also, I wish there was a novelization for this movie, because it would be great.

The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
A medical student is filming a documentary about an older woman’s battle with dementia. While out at her country home, however, it becomes increasingly clear that this woman is dealing with something else besides dementia: a dark presence has come for Deborah Logan, and it’ll use her to accomplish its sinister goals.

  • Both a found footage and a possession movie, the take on the latter is very unique, both in the victim of possession and who/what is doing the possessing. However, since this is a film about a woman with dementia, it misleads you at first so that you don’t know if what you’re experiencing is really supernatural at first. And when it becomes clear that something supernatural is happening, it becomes both terrifying and tragic.
  • Did I mention this film is terrifying? Not just for anyone whose relatives have experienced dementia (and I’ve heard from people that that’s a form of terror in and of itself), but just as a horror movie it is terrifying. From dark and claustrophobic scenes in an abandoned mine to strange happenings in the house and one bloody scene that freaked me the hell out, this is not a film you want to watch with the lights out.

Prince of Darkness (1987)
A Catholic priest discovers an ancient artifact in the basement of an abandoned church that points to the fulfillment of an obscure end-of-world prophecy. Needing to prove it to the world, the priest enlists the help of several prominent professors from a local university and their grad/PhD students to help quantify this strange, evil miracle. As you can guess, shit really hits the fan.

  • One of John Carpenter’s lesser known masterpieces (which I think is a damn shame), the film has a unique take on God and Satan that feels more at home in a UFO cult, but works really well here. It also has some interesting ideas and themes to explore, such as the nature of evil, the relationship between religion and science, and even an allegory for the AIDS epidemic, which was at a peak when this film was made.
  • Also, while not the scariest thing ever, it is pretty damn creepy and has some truly great moments of horror.

So, there you go. These are my favorite horror films right now. And I struggle to find a unifying theme about why I elevate them above all others. Half of them are from the last decade, two from the 1980s, and one from the 1990s. They all place a lot of emphasis on psychological horror, but how and how much varies from film to film. Only two of them are adaptations of anything. No similar genres, directors or writers, different themes are explored in each one, and I own copies of all of them on DVD or Blu-Ray.

Maybe it’s just that they stick in my head more than others, or that they impressed me in some way that other horror films haven’t. Perhaps they’re the kind of stories I wish I’d wrote, or I like thinking of what I’d do with the material. Wait, no, it’s not that. I think that with every horror film.

If nothing else, I’ll be able to discuss films like Perfect Blue and Prince of Darkness with more people.

Well, maybe you’ll help me find some insight. If nothing else, there’s a chance you’ll be curious enough to see these films if you haven’t watched them before, or give them another watch if you have. You may even notice something I don’t.

You may even make some of them part of your Halloween watchlist this year (63 days till Halloween at the time of this writing). And if you do, I also recommend adding Carnival of Souls (1962), Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), As Above, So Below (2014), The Void (2017), both versions of The Fly (1958 and 1986), the 2013 remake of Carrie, It (2017), and Freaky (2020). All make great additions to your Halloween viewing lineup. Not to mention all the movies coming out starting next month. I’m getting chills just thinking about it!

Anyway, this has been a long post and it’s getting late. I’m going to end it here and call it a night. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night and pleasant nightmares!

What are your thoughts on these films? Did you notice anything I didn’t? What are your favorite horror films that you recommend to everyone?

As promised, Netflix dropped the second entry in their horror film trilogy based on the books by RL Stine (see here for my review of the first movie). And while I’m getting to it later than I did last week (hey, I wanted to see a Marvel movie in the theater for the first time in a year), I’m here to report on the film and what I thought about it.

I’m also here to report that in 1978, my parents were in their teens, and I was influencing this Earth from another world. God, I was busy that year. So much chaos to sow!

Starting off almost immediately after the end of the first film, 1978 finds the survivors of the most recent massacre locating the only survivor of the 1978 Camp Nightwing massacre. We are then sent back to summer 1978, where campers and staff from Shadyside have an uneasy relationship with the campers and counselors from Sunnyvale. And while that would normally be bad enough, the curse of Sarah Fier awakens to wreak more havoc on the camp. But while that happens, terrible secrets will be uncovered. Ones that will affect the course of history up to the (film trilogy’s) present day.

Gotta say, I’m more disturbed by how awful the Sunnyvalers are to the Shadysiders than anything in the film. Seriously, I know these kids are rich and used to having their way, but some of these kids are freaking psychopathic! Also, why are there no adults? Only counselors and staff in their twenties! Except for counselors, most of the staff at my camp were in their thirties or older. And we never had any murders!

That aside though, this was a fun sequel and a fun slasher. It takes a lot of cues from the early Friday the 13th films and Sleepaway Camp. The storytelling is pretty tight, with more emphasis placed on the character development and interplay, as well as developments in the plot, than on gore and horror. Actually, the gore and horror is mostly held back, but that seems to benefit the film. This film knows that its strengths are in the characters, so it uses horror to move their dynamics along.

And speaking of characters, the actors do a good job in their roles. Sadie Sink of Stranger Things fame plays Ziggy with the same great attitude she brings to her character Max, along with a great side of being hurt by life and the people around her. As for the other actors, you really believe that they’re these characters. It helps that a lot of the campers are actually played by teens and preteens, which brings a sense of realism to the story. And when they interact with each other, you really feel the love, animosity, and other emotions/prejudices in these characters.

That being said, it’s not very scary. At least, not for experienced horror fans. Yeah, there’s blood and murder and the undead, but no atmosphere or suspense to really terrify you. Someone who faints at the sight of blood might get scared, but not someone whose seen a lot scarier stuff.

Still, this is a fun horror movie and much better than I thought it would be. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Fear Street Part Two: 1978 an even 4. Same as the first film. If you watched the first film and was worried about the second, I can at least assure you it won’t be time wasted. I’m looking forward to seeing the third film and how they wrap things up. It appears they’re going to do an American Horror Story and use most of the actors from the first two films in new roles. I wonder if that will be significant.


Another reminder, my Followers of Fear: there’s only 18 days left to take part in the ten-year blogging anniversary Ask Me Anything, or AMA. Just send me a question with where you’re from by 11:59 PM on July 28th, 2021. If you do, you’ll be entered for a prize. All questions should be sent to my email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. I look forward to reading your questions and answering them.

Unless I don’t get enough questions. In which case, forget it.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night, pleasant nightmares, and disco music is dead. Let’s keep it that way.

Once again, I am releasing my review of the first episode of AHS a day late because that show is on after ten, and I try to be in bed or getting ready for bed by that time because I get up early for work. My apologies if you were waiting with baited breath for my review or you think I’m too late to give my opinion. One day, God willing, I’ll be able to write full-time, and then I can stay up late and give my opinions on this show right after the episode airs.

AHS: 1984 takes place in California in–you guessed it–the summer of 1984. Several good-looking twenty-somethings, including the shy and sweet Brooke, played by Emma Roberts, take on jobs at a small summer camp to avoid the 1984 Summer Olympics. However, they don’t realize until they get there that the camp was the site of a horrific massacre by Mr. Jingles, a Vietnam vet who went mad and killed nine campers and counselors. Oh, and the one survivor is now the camp director. And the camp just happens to be opening the day after Mr. Jingles escapes from the hospital he’s been staying at since his trial.

So if it’s not obvious, American Horror Story is getting on the 80’s nostalgia bandwagon this season. But unlike everyone else taking up this trend, AHS is doing it not just by paying homage to the 1980s–particularly to slasher films like the Friday the 13th and Sleepaway Camp franchises, as well as the Halloween films–but satirizing it in a loving way that only AHS can deliver. One of the very first scenes takes place in a sexy aerobics class, which is then followed by discussion of the Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez, and then…well, I won’t spoil it. Let’s just say an equal mix of camp and horror, though without being as annoying as it was in Coven.

I will say though, it looks like this season is set up to be a camp slasher film told over ten episodes, during which the show will both follow and upset the normal tropes of this sort of film (looking at you, gas station attendant warning of doom trope). And so far, it’s good. The humor and horror worked well together, and you love all the 80’s music and callbacks to the culture of that decade. It’s like the show’s filmmakers are saying, “Yeah, we know 80’s is saturating everything, so we’re going to shove it in your face and have fun with it too.”

The acting isn’t too bad, either. I completely forgot Cody Fern was Michael Langdon, aka the Antichrist, last season, and totally believed he was Xavier, an aerobics teacher/aspiring actor. But really, the true stars are the female leads. Emma Roberts as Brooke is a nice change of pace from her previous roles in the series, usually bitchy characters or half-repentant con artists, and she embodies the quiet girl most likely to survive very well. Still, I’m betting there’s hidden depths to this character, possibly even bloody ones, and I look forward to seeing them. Billie Lourd and Leslie Grossman as Montana and Margaret, respectively, are also great. Lourd’s Montana is supposed to represent the party girl trope, while Grossman’s Margaret is a holier-than-thou uber-Christian type, but I can already tell, there’s more to these characters than meets the eye. Montana’s already proven that in the first half of the episode.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give the season premiere of AHS: 1984 a 4.5. There’s nothing that’s uber-scary or unsettling yet, but the premise and set up is strong and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next. And I think you will too.

And at the very least, you’ll probably like this more than the Friday the 13th remake. Because as we all know, that was a crock of shit film out of Michael Bay’s ass and accented with the desperation of men who need to write boobs into a film in order to see them IRL. That’s right, I found another opportunity to make fun of that piece of crap film, and I won’t stop until we get a new Friday the 13th film that does the franchise justice! You’re welcome, Internet!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. As per usual, you can expect me to review the season as a whole after the final episode airs. Until then, and until my next post, I would like to wish you a good night and pleasant nightmares.