Halloween may be over, but it marks the beginning of a Scary New Week. We at Good Bad Taste came up with a lil’ list of movies to keep you feelin’ spooked.
Josh: The Lost Boys (1987)
Dracula it is not; Joel Schumacher’s (St. Elmo’s Fire, Batman & Robin) The Lost Boys is something so much more. When brothers Michael and Sam move to Santa Carla, CA with their single mother, the family stumbles into a world of trashy gangs, comic books, Corey Feldman – and most importantly – vampires. If you love 80s movies and haven’t seen this one, you’re messin’ up. In true campy 80s fashion, Joel Schumacher adds his lackluster sensibilities in the best way he ever has, and The Lost Boys comes out being a movie that’s one of the most in tune with my own personal aesthetic. A true triumph over genre, The Lost Boys may not be scary, and the acting may not be flawless, but the spook factor is occasionally real, and the testament to 80s charm that it is leaves you laughing until the film’s final, jarring line. The movie has something for everyone, and while not a horror or a gothic, vampire fans can’t help but be impressed: from its use of classical ‘Vampire Rules,’ (don’t invite ‘em in) to philosophical questions like, “Would you become a creature of the night to impress Kiefer Sutherland?” this is a movie that’ll stay in your quotable subconscious for the rest of your days. Watch The Lost Boys when you need a breather from the rest of your spooktaculars while still staying in fashion with the tone of the spiderweb that is this holiday week. And take a drink every time they say “Michael.”
Dan: Suspiria (1977)
As a horror fanatic, I’ll take any excuse to watch strictly horror films for an entire month, although I really don’t need one. I have definitely seen my fair share over the years and one film that stands out among the endless monotony of archetypes and tropes is Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977). This film is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Suspiria is an Italian horror film about Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper), an American ballet student who travels to Germany to attend an extremely prestigious dance school. However, from the moment she arrives, eerie, unsettling things begin to happen around her, and Suzy discovers that the administrators are hiding a dangerous secret within the walls of the academy. This film is the whole package: dazzling visuals, an original story, and a score by the band Goblin that sets an unforgettable tone. Argento takes his time laying the spooky groundwork slowly and gradually; through strange and suspicious characters, as well as horrifyingly original death scenes. Most impressive is the use of lighting throughout the film, in both its capacity to highlight and accentuate the suspense, as well as its sheer beauty. If you feel like you’ve seen all that there is to see within the horror genre, then I’d highly recommend sitting down to watch Suspiria; and with a runtime of just 90-minutes, what’ve you got to lose?
Reed: The Terminator (1984)
If you know me, you know that horror is probably my least favorite genre. To be honest if it weren’t for the GBT, I wouldn’t have seen half the horror movies I’ve seen in my time knowing them. However, because of them, I have certainly grown an appreciation towards horror that I never knew I had in me. When the word horror comes to mind, I think of times I felt truly scared for my life. For me, one of those moments was when a nine-year-old Reed watched Terminator (1984) for the first time. In the moment, the action was great and Arnold was a certifiable badass; but when the lights went out and Dad shut the door, the thought of a cold, calculated cyborg breaking into my room in the middle of the night and ruthlessly killing me was the one and only thing on my mind. Not a single self-reliant thought that it was “only a movie” could convince me otherwise. Sure, Terminator is a sci-fi movie at its core, but there are themes that overlap into horror, especially during a slasher age of 6 feet+ men with only killing on their mind who just can’t seem to die. This is certainly a highlight in director James Cameron’s career – a director who doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves, just because people think he made arguably two bad movies. Compare that to a Quentin Tarantino, who some will argue has made several bad movies.
Ethan: Oculus (2013)
The movie I saw on an early Thursday afternoon that helped further my budding appreciation and love for the horror genre was a little ditty called Oculus. The film follows Kaylie (Karen Gillan/Annalise Baso) and her brother Tim (Brenton Thwaites/Garrett Ryan) as young adults trying to prove that a gothic mirror is haunted after, as children, they see the mirror’s supposed demonic influence on their parents. Oculus is a really engaging film, providing a fresh take on the possession/gothic haunted house sub-genres and complementing this with clever writing, top notch trick-editing, and camerawork. The performances are very engaging and will most certainly wrap you up in the drama of the moment, until you realize what you are seeing might not be reality, and is actually happening in the minds of the characters. When they doubt their own actions, you doubt them as well, and you doubt what you could even be seeing. This tension and stress is not lost when going back and forth from the present and flashback. Transitions are done cleverly and never take you out of the moment. I honestly find this film to be quite impressive and probably not brought up in the discussion of great modern horror films enough. The film is a testament to how much you can do with horror with so little.
David: Coraline (2009)
My colleague Josh wrote a beautifully thought-out piece on animation as a viable medium, and how that medium is often pigeon-holed as being “for kids,” or often just downright neglected as a tenable art-form. There are, of course, notable exceptions to these stigmas; seemingly kid-oriented animated films that are, in-fact, just as mature and nuanced as any live-action drama.
But I believe no modern American studio is as adept at creating age-inclusive and meaningful animation, films that defy the “Kids-Only” label, as Laika. In the spirit of Halloween, my sister and I sat down to rewatch one of her favorite films, Coraline (2009); Laika’s first major release. Coraline is adapted from the 2002 children’s novella of the same name by Neil Gaiman, and follows young Coraline Jones as she and her family move into a dilapidated 19th-century house. Soon Coraline discovers a portal behind a mysterious door in the parlor, leading to a strange-but-fantastic mirror of her own world. This alternate dimension is designed to cater to Coraline’s every desire, and is entirely orchestrated by her “Other Mother,” the Beldam, a manipulative spirit with sinister intentions.
Coraline is an absolute master-class in stop-motion, genre-bending, set-design, and storytelling.
The saying often goes, “every frame a painting,” in the naive hope that filmmakers put such care and thought into every individual frame of their work. But nowhere is this adage more true than in stop-motion. The few digital tricks pulled in Coraline are only done in the name of feasibility, and nearly every frame is entirely crafted and animated by hand in Laika’s studios. The medium lends weight to the message. The overly stylized character design does more to inform character development than expositional dialogue ever could, leaving more time to focus on visual storytelling. And the meticulousness of the set itself; the nooks and crannies and peeling wallpaper of the Beldam’s false-world, give physical weight to the sense of unease creeping through the narrative.
There is, of course, more to Coraline than its medium. The story is engaging, deftly penned, and supplemented by eerie and dynamic cinematography, including several memorable POV tracking-shots. The editing might be my favorite aspect; there are some excellent match-fades and match-cuts, all of which are motivated by the story. Few animated films I’ve seen, stop-motion or otherwise, make such nuanced and purposeful use of these mature editing techniques. The performances are excellent, and the soundtrack is easily one of the most memorable components of the film. I keep coming back to the medium, however – because in my opinion, Coraline wouldn’t have worked in any other form other than stop-motion. It’s the substance which buoys the story, makes the scares more palpable and the drama more engaging, and the darkly-mirrored world-within-a-world all the more tactile, and frightening. This is a film worth watching and savoring again and again. Make it a priority for this spooky season, and a tradition for the future.