Halloween Horror Nights at Midsummer Scream

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One of the biggest attractions at Midsummer Scream is always Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights. Every year fans gather in a room to hear any bit of news from HHN’s creative team, John Murdy and Chris Williams. This panel always draws an enthusiastic bunch of haunt fans, and this year was no exception.

Before jumping into the new stuff, they provided some background information regarding how they became involved in Horror Nights. Both men painted rosy pictures of their childhood love of monsters, and how it inspired them later in life.  None of this was news to me, but Murdy and Williams were as charismatic as usual, so it was still entertaining.

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As for this year’s Halloween Horror Nights, they walked the audience through pictures chronicling the process of building The Shining maze. They promised the Grady sisters, room 237, Danny on his tricycle, “Here’s Johnny”, and of course the famous carpet. Murdy stated that his goal with this maze is to capture the slow burning dread of the movie.

They delved into scare zones a bit, too. One of the scare zones will be Hell on Earth set in New York City. Guests can expect to see an assortment of demons roaming the streets. HHN always creates top notch monsters/effects, so haunt lovers will definitely be in for a devilish treat.

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Finally, for those super fans, Universal is bringing back their VIP tours known as the R.I.P. Experience. This walking tour includes front of the line passes to everything in the park, free valet parking, special entry, a buffet dinner, and reserved seats for shows.

Keep your peepers here for updates about Halloween Horror Nights. Also be sure to follow us on Twitter at @HallowsHaunts. We’ve got lots of spooky stuff in store this Halloween season, and you won’t want to miss it.

 

10 Creepy Films About Toxic Relationships – Part 1

I have a deep appreciation for human psychology, especially abnormal psych. A big part of psychology is how we relate to each other as human beings. Human relationships can be beautiful, and complex, and they can also be horrific. Today I’m listing some great films that examine the disturbing results that occur when fate brings the wrong people together. I’m breaking this article into two parts, because I don’t want it to get too long. (Keep in mind these are in no particular order.)

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301/302

301/302 is a Korean film that examines what happens when two people’s obsessions clash. The two female characters live next door to each other in an apartment complex, one is a chef and the other is a writer with anorexia. The chef ends up taking desperate measures to force the writer to sample her culinary talents. This film is weird, and funny, and gross. I like how it shows the histories of both women, allowing the viewer to understand how they came to be the way they are. There is an American remake of this film. It’s called Compulsion, and it stars Carrie-Anne Moss and Heather Graham. The original is by far the superior film, though.

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Silver Tongues

Silver Tongues is one of my favorite films about sociopaths. I’m shocked this movie isn’t more popular. It revolves around a couple that moves from place to place, finding people to psychologically toy with. Unlike 301/302, there is no deep reason for why the main characters do what they do, which makes it all the more troubling. They seem to just enjoy destroying the lives of others for kicks.

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Grimm Love

Grimm Love is one of the horror films released by Fangoria as part of their FrightFest. It stars Keri Russell as a psychology student studying a case that is based on Armin Meiwes, aka “The Rohtenburg Cannibal”. As many of you may know, Meiwes is known for convincing a man to let him eat him. Of course for the purposes of the movie, the names of the characters are changed and the details are scrambled about, but it preserves the shocking nature of the real crime. Russell puts in an excellent performance, and the film raises some interesting questions, like “What is love?”. I’m still saying it’s not cutting off a guy’s penis and eating it front of him, but hey, that’s just me.

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Bug

Bug is the story of the insanity that blossoms between a mysterious drifter and a battered woman. Bug can be considered a textbook example of Folie a deux. Folie a deux is a French term that basically means ” a madness of two”. It occurs when two people share a delusion. In order for Folie a deux to occur, there has to be isolation and one of the parties is dominant, while the other just sort falls in line with the delusion. In this William Friedkin film, Michael Shannon’s character convinces a damaged Ashley Judd, that the government has planted insects in their hotel room. It’s all downhill from there.

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Proxy

I don’t feel like I can say much about this film without giving plot points away. I guess I’ll just have to tell you something vague, like “No one is what they appear to be.” While, that’s true, it hardly does this movie justice. Proxy is bursting at the seams with well crafted shots, fascinating characters, and gut-wrenching violence.

What are some of your favorite horror/thrillers about toxic relationships. Let me know in the comment section or on Twitter @HallowsHaunts.

It Comes at Night… Sort Of

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Theatrical horror releases have been pretty thin this year so far. So when I saw the trailer for It Comes at Night, I couldn’t wait to get out and see it. The limited cast and ambiguous threat had me hoping for something like It Follows, but the film that was advertised wasn’t exactly the film I saw.

It Comes at Night centers around a family living in a post apocalyptic world where infection lurks around every corner. The film opens with the family being forced to kill the diseased grandfather.  It’s an introduction that packs an emotional punch and sets the tone of the movie quite well.

From there on, our young protagonist Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) struggles to come to terms with the emotional reality of the situation. He is overcome by ghastly nightmares involving the sickness and his grandfather. Then one night a man breaks into their home. His parents (Joel Edgerton and Carmen Ejogo) and the intruder, Will (Christopher Abbott) form a tentative agreement to pool their resources. Will retrieves his wife and child (Riley Keough and Griffin Robert Faulkner) and the two families begin living together. At first, things are great, but then suspicion and paranoia begin to propel them all in a violent direction.

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It Comes at Night has a lot going for it. The performances are top notch. I was especially partial to Harrison and Keough. All of the characters are well rounded and they all feel like real people. The relationships between the characters and the mounting tension create a palpable sense of dread. I’d compare It Comes at Night to The Walking Dead. Both rely on characters in desperate situations facing heavy moral dilemmas, where neither party is right or wrong.

In addition to the characters, the architecture of the cabin allows for a unique setting. With its narrow passages, woodwork, and the surrounding forest it presents a wide range of cinematography options.

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The soundtrack consisting of a lot of low key drumming also stands out. It’s a sound I definitely haven’t heard in any other recent horror movie, and its a nice break from the usual orchestral or synth music that seems to pervade the genre.

Unfortunately, for all of its positives, It Comes at Night still doesn’t feel like much of a movie. It was halfway over before I could even figure out exactly where the plot was going. It’s only about 90 minutes, but it feels about twice as long. The supernatural threat alluded to is nonexistent. All of the nightmare fuel imagery is from Travis’s dreams, and those dreams are a rare occurrence throughout the film. In fact, not much happens in the movie at all. The characters are almost enough to make up for this, but not quite.

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I tried to pinpoint why this film felt so lackluster for me, because on paper I should love it. Usually, psychological slow burn films are my favorite, but this one didn’t stick the landing. I think it’s because many of the scenes don’t serve to drive the story forward, so it starts to feel stagnant. When the climax finally came, it was about what I expected. Then it just sort of ends. Everyone in the theater started grumbling, saying things like “That’s it?”. I liked It Comes at Night, and I’m glad it’s out there because it is something fresh in this landscape of Alien and Annabelle sequels. Just don’t expect it to live up to the hype.

What to Watch on Netflix- May 2017

It occurred to me recently that there are a lot of great movies streaming that get overlooked. It can be difficult when you’re browsing through Netflix and you’ve seen almost everything. Keeping that in mind I’ve decided to do a monthly round up of films that are worth watching. Bear in mind that my picks are only applicable to the American version of platforms. This week I’ll be focusing on Netflix. Ok, let’s do it.

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Para Elisa

This is a super short and sweet movie from Spain. It’s only about 75 minutes and the plot is fairly straightforward. I first saw this film at Screamfest and I was impressed, but since then I haven’t heard much about it. Like many festival favorites, it seems to have skipped the hype and gone straight to the oblivion that is Netflix. I recommend this film to anyone that digs creepy dolls. Just know this isn’t your standard creepy doll film.

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Mine Games

I’d be lying if I said I totally comprehended what occurred in this movie. Still, it’s weird and enjoyable. The story is about a group of friends that go into an old mine, and bizarre events ensue. I’m a big fan of films that are more about atmosphere than plot. To me horror is more effective when it’s not one hundred percent explained. This movie is for those that dig films like Triangle, Southbound, and Coherence.

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Almost Mercy

This indie film features appearances from horror favorites Bill Moseley and Kane Hodder, but it’s lead, Danielle Guldin that steals the show. The story follows two teen psychos who fight back against those that have abused them. The movie makes you think it’s going in one direction, and then swerves and goes the other way. If you like revenge stories, or character studies of sociopaths, then this is the one for you. Think American Psycho, the teen edition.

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Baskin

I don’t know if I would say that I like this movie, but it’s definitely worth the watch. This film from Turkey follows a group of corrupt policeman who venture into an abandoned building and discover Hell. There are many cool elements in this movie. I’m a fan of its depiction of Hell, and there are some awesome scenes of depravity. Some of the concepts are bit too literal for my liking. For example, one character has an actual lock on his head that another character must stick a key into to gain knowledge. Still, this Turkish gore fest is a safe bet for those looking for something on the extreme side of the genre.

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Mockingbird

If you check IMDB, you’ll notice that viewers hated this film. I actually found it to be quite entertaining. It’s a sloppy mess, and the ending is one of the WTF variety. Yet it’s captivating in the way it weaves together a couple different found footage perspectives. The story revolves around a couple that are forced to follow an anonymous set of instructions or else someone will die. Across town a man puts on a clown outfit after being informed that he could win a large sum of money if he plays along. There’s a sense of dread wondering how these two stories will overlap. Although, the resolution is a let down, I’ll still vouch for this found footage film by the director of The Strangers.

A Cure For Wellness- A Gothic Spectacular

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Visionary director, Gore Verbinski is back with his first horror film since The Ring. 2017’s A Cure for Wellness blends Verbinski’s meticulous attention to detail with elements from gothic and weird fiction. The resulting film contains a few flaws, but overall is a beautiful and unique cinematic experience.

A Cure for Wellness follows ruthless young businessman, Lockhart (Dane DeHaan), on his mission to Switzerland to convince his company’s head to return to his life in New York. Lockhart is the kind of guy who will do anything to achieve a goal, and he isn’t afraid to push people around in order to get what he wants. His arrogance leads him to believe that retrieving his boss will be a simple task, but he quickly discovers the sanitarium is hiding secrets in every corner, most of them related to the water.

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From a technical perspective, A Cure For Wellness is a feast for the eyes. Verbinski’s clear understanding of visual storytelling, creates a tense atmosphere of foreboding that is present in every scene. Whether the camera is following the dizzying movements of a group of white robed dancers, or showing a static image reflected in the eye of an animal bust, there is a grandness created within the frame. His indulgent style is an excellent fit with the dramatic storyline.

As for the story itself, there’s a bit of everything for all types horror fans. Fans of gothic horror will be attracted to the old buildings, incestuous relationships, and the forbidden romance. Those more drawn to Lovecraftian themes will enjoy the slimy creatures, the body horror, and the overall sense of individual oppression by the seemingly larger than life institution.

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The mystery behind the water in A Cure For Wellness is compelling, but a bit predictable. Chances are, most viewers will figure out what’s going on, pretty fast. That doesn’t make the film less enjoyable, just don’t expect to be shocked. It’s also a little on the long side, but because Lockhart is learning more and more with each scene, it doesn’t seem slow or boring. However, it might upon repeat viewings.

The film is at its very best when it relies on the creepiness of the characters and the cult-like mindset of the institution. The weird water based treatments, the polite but stiff staff, and the zombified patients in white are what makes the movie so spine chilling.

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The film is at its worst when ventures beyond the atmospheric and the psychological. The climax boils down to a physical fistfight between Lockhart and a character that basically transforms into Skeletor (No spoilers, here.). For a film that spent two hours being so thought provoking, it seems jarring and out of place for a high action scene to occur. For some this borderline comedic resolution may ruin the film. For others it’ll just seem like a sizeable bump in the road.

A Cure For Wellness is likely to be on many top 10 lists for 2017. Even though, it contains some significant blemishes, it still possesses many brilliant qualities. Like Crimson Peak, its gothic aesthetic and precise performances more than make up for its basic storyline. Verbinski may not have created a genre masterpiece, but A Cure For Wellness still way exceeds most studio horror productions.

Split- M. Night is officially back!

Every horror fan knows that M. Night Shyamalan has had a rocky career. He’s hit some high highs, but unfortunately he’s also hit some extreme lows. In 2015 he gave us the Wayward Pines series, which I’ve yet to finish, but showed promise. He also released The Visit which falls into a weird gray area where it manages to be both awesome and awful. His latest film, Split places him firmly back into good filmmaker territory, well at least for now.

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Split follows a teen outcast (Anya Taylor-Joy) and two of her classmates (Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula) that are captured by a man with multiple personalities (James McAvoy). The girls must figure out how to stay alive, and how to protect themselves from their attacker’s 24 identities.

Split relies on heavy tension and well crafted characters to hold the viewer hostage until the very end. Each one of McAvoy’s personalities is unique and feels like an actual person, or perhaps even something supernatural. He sheds personas with ease, allowing him to shift back and forth between characters. Like his captives, the audience is left waiting for him to snap and change into someone or something else.

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The film tackles issues of mental illness and abuse with an unexpected level of compassion. Split makes you feel for McAvoy’s character, even as he commits horrific crimes. There is great deal of debate about whether Dissociative Identity Disorder/Multiple Personality Disorder even exists. For the purposes of Split, DID is both a gift and a burden. McAvoy’s character, possesses a multitude of talents, due to the diverse nature of his personalities. However, it makes life difficult for him, as he essentially has 24 identities competing for control, and some of them have bad intentions. In addition to DID, Split also delves into abuse. Both the protagonist and the antagonist are victims of child abuse. This is intriguing, because in a sense it makes them kindred spirits, who have wound up on different paths.

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Split is a great theatrical horror film to kick off 2017. It’s smart, it has fully developed characters, and one hell of an ending. Hopefully M. Night can keep producing quality work like Split.

 

Lola’s Top Ten Worst Films of 2016

While 2016 was mostly a good year for the horror genre, there were still some major flops that slipped through the cracks. My list consists of the films that were not necessarily the worst, but the ones that I found most annoying. I’ve ranked them accordingly.

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There isn’t much to say here. I think Wentworth Miller had some sort of gothic trope check list that he used to create this script. The sad thing is, he’s an excellent writer. Stoker is a favorite of mine. If you want to see a good gothic thriller starring Kate Beckinsale, I’d go with Stonehurst Asylum.

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9. Holidays

There have been some great anthology films of late. Unfortunately, Holidays falls into the weird and stupid category next to The ABCs of Death. The best segment of the batch is the Kevin Smith one, but even Smith’s piece seems lacking. The worst one is the Saint Patrick’s Day one, which crams a shitty 90 minute film into about 15 minutes.

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I know many of you are going to disagree with me about this one. I liked the director’s first film, Blue Ruin, but Green Room seemed sloppy and nonsensical. It was drastically underlit, and I frequently couldn’t tell where the characters were in relation to one another. I’m also confused as to why this massive group of white supremacists couldn’t wipe out a few punk rockers. Finally, I have to talk about Patrick Stewart. His performance was almost unwatchable. He mumbles his way through the whole damn movie, like he’s sedated or something.

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7. Intruder

If I were ranking these films based on how poorly they were made, Intruder would be at the very top. This Netflix original had little to offer except unintended laughs. The most cringe worthy scenes are the ones where Moby attempts to act. Also, why can’t that girl see her stalker when he’s standing right next to her while she’s in the shower? She better get her peripheral vision checked.

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6. The Purge: Election Year

The Purge is a fun concept, and I enjoyed the first film and parts on Anarchy. However, Election Year just took it way too far. I didn’t hate this film, but it was just trying too hard. There were moments and characters I enjoyed, but the film as a whole felt like silly political propaganda.

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5. Ghostbusters

Ok, so Ghostbusters isn’t a horror movie, but horror sites covered the hell out of it and it has ghosts. To be honest, I couldn’t sit through the entirety of this film. The jokes fell flat as a pancake, and the characters made my flesh crawl. Whoever thought this script was good must’ve had their streams crossed.

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4. Morgan

This film had so much potential to be smart and scary. Instead, audiences were forced to endure some needless action scenes and an obvious plot twist.

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3. Cabin Fever

Cabin Fever gets the award for most pointless remake of 2016. Ever wonder what would happen if you took the exact same script, and reshot it with different actors? Yeah, neither did anyone else.

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2. Blair Witch

The Blair Witch happens to be one of my very favorite films. When I heard about the new film, I was pretty excited. The trailer looked good, and I knew it was in the capable hands of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a messy, confusing rehash of the original. Dumbest part of the movie? The drone, definitely the drone. They set it up to be an important part of the film, and then did nothing with it, what a waste.

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1. The Darkness

This film is so rubbish, it’d be comical if it wasn’t so sad. The trailer offered promise of an unusual ghost story, with Anasazi gods at the heart of it. Unfortunately, the Anasazi gods were only a minor part of the film. Instead, the audience was forced to endure haunted house 101 gimmicks, and a family that is full of dysfunction and low on likability. Kevin Bacon, you can do so much better.

 

 

A Special AHH Anniversary!

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As of yesterday, All Hallows’ Haunts hit our one year anniversary. It’s been a crazy and wonderful year for us. We’ve got to do so many things and meet a variety of new friends from the horror community. In 2016, we got to experience Midsummer Scream, Scare LA, Stan Lee’s Comic Con, Halloween Horror Nights, Knott’s Scary Farm, and so much more. Andy and our Force of Nature friend, Sebastian Munoz built the Fallen Saints haunt from the ground up. Lola transformed into every creature under the moon for the ghoulish theatre experience, Urban Death. Finally, our little claws typed numerous articles on topics both delightfully spooky and frighteningly disturbing.

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When we started this journey, we didn’t have a clue. Each step has been a learning process, and we’re still growing. However, there is one thing that has remained consistent, and that is our supporters. We’ve received so much love from the horror community. That love drives us to do more, to be better. That love has radiated from every dark, cobwebbed corner. So we want to say thank you. Thank you for engaging us at conventions, thank you for reading and sharing our content, and thank you so much for your kindness.

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In 2017, we intend to stay focused, and to expand our reach. We’d like to try our hand at other forms of media, in addition to the ones we already use. We’re undergoing some big changes right now, and it may be awhile before we feel settled. We ask that you stick with us and provide honest feedback. As the site mutates and develops, we promise to continue supporting Halloween enthusiasts, horror fiends, and other macabre weirdos. This is starting to get so sweet we’re worried about drawing mosquitos, so we’ll close with a final thank you to you, our dear friends.

 

Lola’s Creepy Christmas Countdown- Part 2

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(I do not own any of the images featured.)

Alright guys, it’s round 2 of my Creepy Christmas Countdown! We’ve reached the top five, and there’s no turning back. Please let me know in the comments or on Twitter what your favorite films of the holiday season are.

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5. Dead End

There are so many reasons to love this movie. From the flesh eating lady in white to the severe psychotic breakdowns, Dead End is the gift that keeps on giving. Dead End follows a family on their way to a holiday gathering. They become lost, and all hell breaks loose as they face their deep-rooted resentments and the evils that lurk in the surrounding forest. You thought your family holidays were hell, just wait until you see what these people end up going through.

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4. Dead of Night- Christmas Party

Dead of Night is one of my all time favorite films. Unfortunately it’s a little tricky to find. I used to have it on dvd, but then I got in a car accident and someone stole my movie case from my car. It’s a long story. Car crashes and theft aside, Dead of Night is well worth seeking out. The Christmas portion of the anthology film is the nightmarish tale of a young girl who attends a party at an old mansion. While playing hide and seek, she ends up finding a young boy who wants her to stay and care for him forever. Like the rest of the film, Christmas Party is understated and provides a lurking dread that is like the falling snow, light but constant.

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3. Gremlins

I don’t like to judge the tastes of others, but if you don’t enjoy Gremlins than you’re just a big Scrooge. Gremlins takes the third spot on my list for its originality, its charm, and for the adorable Gizmo. Although it’s a film that can and should be enjoyed by the whole family, in my book it’s still a horror movie. If you have doubts, just watch that scene where Gizmo first starts spawning furry little demons. If that doesn’t constitute as body horror, then I don’t know what does. As a final word of warning, if you’re planning on getting anyone a gremlin this Christmas, I’d recommend you thoroughly go through all the rules.

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2. Black Christmas

It’s weird to think that Bob Clark directed Black Christmas and A Christmas Story. I guess he had a lot of Christmas to get out of his system. Black Christmas is one of the few slashers where the killer is never fully identified. This makes the film terrifying on a whole different level. My favorite part of watching Black Christmas is trying to discern WTF is going on in those weird phone calls. To this day when the phone rings, I still worry that the call is coming from inside the house.

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1. The Nightmare Before Christmas

For my top favorite creepy Christmas film, I’m going full on cliche. It may be the obvious choice, but that doesn’t make The Nightmare Before Christmas any less brilliant. This movie has everything! It’s got glorious stop-motion, a touching love story, life lessons, and best of all both Christmas and Halloween.

 

 

 

 

Lola’s Creepy Christmas Countdown- Part 1

It’s that time of year again, folks. Yes, the time of year where shoppers lose their minds, families are forced to bond against their will, and everyone feels the acute sting of loneliness. All joking aside, Christmas is a blast! One of my favorite ways of celebrating is to pull out my favorite spooky Christmas films and TV episodes. I’ve always felt that these little pearls of holiday gore are rare and hard to come by. However, the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized that there’s actually quite the selection available. So today, I present part 1 of my top 10 creepy tales of Christmas, wrapped in human flesh and topped with a bow. Enjoy!

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10. The Children

I’m going to be honest, I don’t like kids. I don’t like them at all. I didn’t even like kids when I was one. That’s why The Children has so much appeal for me. The Children follows a family on Christmas vacation that becomes the prey of their own rabid offspring. These little shits are vicious, and the result is a delightful bloodbath.

 

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9. Wind Chill

I love a good stuck on the road film. Car travel lends itself well to horror. In Wind Chill, two young college students are forced to battle the elements, each other, and the supernatural. This film stars Emily Blunt before she exploded into Hollywood stardom. The Christmas aspect of the movie is relegated to the background, but the winter atmosphere is front and center. The supernatural mystery is compelling, but the real star of Wind Chill is the relationship between the two main characters.

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8. Krampus

If I were to crown a king of holiday horror, it’d be Michael Dougherty. With Krampus, Dougherty takes the humor of Christmas Vacation and gives it a macabre makeover. Fans of horror, have been waiting a long time to see the legend of Krampus come to life on the big screen and Dougherty doesn’t disappoint. The creature design is spot on. From the toys, to the elves, to of course Krampus, it’s clear that there was a good deal of consideration put in to creating a world that could stand on its own. The humans that populate this realm manage to hold their own as well. My favorite performances come from David Koechner and Conchata Ferrell. If you’re looking for a horror film that completely embodies the spirit of the season, look no further.

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7. Tales From the Crypt- And All Through the House

Before the HBO TV series, Tales From the Crypt was adapted into one hell of a movie. The 1972 film opens with “And All Through the House“, the tale of a woman who murders her husband and becomes the target of a homicidal Santa. This story was later used on the show, but I prefer the film version. The story itself is way wacky. The show takes the over the top script in the expected humorous direction, and the result is fun and strange. However it can’t compare to the solemn approach of the movie. The serious nature of the the film version, creates a startling surrealistic contrast between the story and the overall vibe. This is what makes and “All Through the House” so downright freaky. My advice, don’t pick Christmas to murder your spouse.

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6. The X-Files – How the Ghosts Stole Christmas

As much as I love The X-Files, it’s easy to become annoyed with Mulder and Scully. They’re two characters that are flawed to the core, and that’s what makes them seem so human, so real. Still, there’s a lot of stuff I always wanted to rip them each a new asshole over. Well that’s exactly what happens in the season 6 episode “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas“. Over the course of the episode, Mulder and Scully become trapped on Christmas Eve inside a haunted house. There they meet two annoying ghosts played by Lily Tomlin and Ed Asner. These ghosts psychoanalyze the partners exposing their shortcomings and doubts. The episode features a fantastic set and some seriously witty dialogue. To this day, I still use the phrase “paramasturbatory”.