Film

My Favorite Horror Movies

As I mentioned multiple times on the blog, I love classic horror movies. Way back when AMC’s Fear Fest used to begin with the black and white classics and move up to the modern-day slasher films. Sadly, they’ve cut the movie marathon down to about a week rather than a month so they tend to strictly focus on the slasher films. At least the streaming services still have them available to watch. Of course, I took a bunch of film classes where we studied the likes of Psycho, The Exorcist, and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari which gave me a greater appreciation for the classics.

My limit of horror movie watching stops after the original Scream because I just can’t stand whatever they are trying to pull with modern horror/slasher films. I mean, the modern Halloween remakes? Pass. There’s a lot I just can’t take seriously and its important to be able to suspend your disbelief to view them. With today being Halloween I thought I might share my favorite movies just in case you’re looking for something festive to check out tonight while waiting for (or avoiding) trick or treaters.

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Halloween (1978)

In 1963 Michael Myers murders his 17-year-old sister, Judith, but on October 30, 1978 he breaks out during a transport from his mental hospital. He steals a car and terrorizes his quiet hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois.

Why I Like It: It’s a fact Halloween defined the slasher film genre. It takes an already eerie holiday and elevates it with an even creepier, almost silent, killer. Despite it being over 30 years old, and there being plenty of things to laugh it, there’s still plenty of enthralling suspense. Michael Myers is a magnificent villain with an emotionless mask that depicts the soulless, evil person Michael truly is. The John Carpenter score could easily be my favorite film score. It’s hard to imagine Halloween (the holiday) without Michael Myers.

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Psycho (1960)

A secretary steals $40,000 from her employer intending to run away with her boyfriend. She becomes exhausted traveling the back roads to avoid the police, and stops at the Bates Motel. She meets Norman Bates, a high-strung young man with an interest in taxidermy and plenty of mommy issues. What could possibly go wrong?

Why I Like It: Psycho is one of the greatest thrillers of all time (not to mention one of Hitchcock’s best films). Despite the film not being as shocking as it originally was in 1960 (it genuinely made people fear showering), and being made with a low-budget, the film is still incredible today. It’s tense and nerve-wracking. One of the most iconic scenes in film history is the killing of Janet Leigh’s character paired with the extraordinary score, but I might go as far as to there are plenty of other great scenes. I also love how it was partly filmed in Downtown Phoenix giving me a little slice of movie history here in my hometown.

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Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

A young couple move into a New York City apartment building with quite the reputation, and end up with some pretty creepy neighbors. When Rosemary becomes pregnant she is isolated more and more until the truth about the diabolical cult who wants to use her baby for their rituals comes to light.

Why I Like It: Rosemary’s Baby was outlawed by my mother when I was a child, but as a rebellious teenager I went ahead and watched it. Hey, it was this or the Omen (which I’m still not able to watch again). Rosemary’s Baby is a psychological thriller about a conspiring cult who want to steal her baby but their own dark causes. As the world around her unravels the story becomes more and more uncomfortable. Roman Polanski takes the opportunity to create optimum scariness by leaving much of the storytelling to the imagination of the viewer. There’s nothing more unsettling than realizing you have the ability to create your own darkness based on a few small prompts on-screen, right?

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The Shining (1980)

A writer hoping to cure writers block becomes the winter caretaker of an isolated hotel in Colorado. He is joined by his wife and son who is prone to psychic premonitions. Danny’s visions become more disturbing as time goes on, and Jack begins to unravel along with the dark secrets of the hotel.

Why I Like It: The Shining is a genuinely scary movie, and not simply because it is the upsetting story of a man having a psychological breakdown and terrorizing his own family. It has everything including creepy kids, a set of twins, and blood pouring from an elevator. There are cinematically beautiful shots mixed with eerie and creepy ones. So many of the iconic scenes have made their way into the pop culture lexicon, and considering it took nearly 5 years to make, I’d say it was worth it. There are also plenty of conspiracy theories about the film (I didn’t really know this), but one thing I love about the film is Danny’s NASA sweater. I mean, how cool is that?

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The Amityville Horror (1979)

A family is terrorized by supernatural phenomenon after moving into a home which was the scene of a mass killing. Flies begin to swarm, the walls begin to ooze slime and blood, and a priest is called in to exorcise the home from evil spirits.

Why I Like It: Based on the “true” story of George and Kathleen Lutz (true used very very loosely) and their experiences living in the haunted home of a recently killed family. The detectives aren’t sure what caused the killing of the family, but the Lutzes and their children are menaced by the lingering evil it caused. It’s not necessarily a true classic horror film (it’s horribly rated on Rotten Tomatoes), but it’s a really great ghost story. It perfectly gives off the creepy, eerie feeling movies in this genre need to have. They need to be unsettling, and the Amityville Horror succeeds. Sure, there is something to learn here; Have you seen a listing for the home of your dreams at an incredibly low price and you have to question how this could possibly be real? Just. walk. away. I don’t know how the story claims they made it an entire month. I would have been out right at the pig with glowing red eyes.

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Poltergeist (1982) 

An average California family is menaced by ghosts communicating with them through their television set. At first the spirits are friendly but begin to terrorize the family unexpectedly. When the youngest daughter, Carol Ann, goes missing they must turn to a parapsychologist and exorcist for help.

Why I Like It: Poltergeist horrified me as a child, and strangely it doesn’t change much as an adult. Nothing is creepier than Carol Ann staring at a television and saying “they’re hereeeeeeeeeee.” What makes Poltergeist so terrifying is the normal situation where the story takes place. It wasn’t a monster filled ancient castle or a haunted mansion, it was a regular family home in California. It was just like any other cookie cutter home and town in anywhere USA. Okay, unless you count that whole ancient Native American burial ground filled with violent, unhappy ghosts thing. Those skeletons in the swimming pool is still the thing nightmares are made of.

 

 

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Life Lessons from Horror Movies

I love a good horror movie. Okay scratch that. I love a few select horror movies and none of them are recent. Trust me, just ask anyone who gets incredibly mad at me laughing the entire time because I just cannot suspend my disbelief for two or so hours. I might get into my favorites in another post because I just finished watching the 1979 version of the Amityville Horror and AMC’s Fear Fest is going to start in just a few days. Plenty to write about, right?

We all know the horror movie clichés. I mean, if we didn’t there wouldn’t have been 5, yes FIVE, Scary Movie franchise films to mock them. For example: There’s the typical don’t go camping because, of course, nothing good ever happens in the woods. Who likes spending time outdoors anyway? Another good one: Don’t be a promiscuously dressed female attempting to run away from any ghost, zombie, monster, or killer. Why would you be wearing heels at time like this? Are you serious right now? Get rid of them and high tail it out of there, girl. See what I’m getting at? So I chose 6 of the best life lessons we can learn from classic horror movies to get ourselves through the next few creepy weeks leading up to Halloween.

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So, I Tried Filmstruck…

Streaming films from the Criterion Collection was previously a bit scattered. A couple were on Netflix for a while, and then they exclusively began streaming on Hulu. You don’t know panic until you’re trying to stream as MANY Criterion selections as you can before your Hulu free trial runs out (I watched quite a few). But, by the powers that be, Filmstruck was created.

Filmstruck is a streaming service that offers “contemporary and classic art house, indie, foreign, and cult films.” It was created by the film lovers at Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection. There’s a pretty well stocked library of options across multiple genres, and even just scrolling genres seemed endless. Their partnership with the Criterion Collection gives a more immersive viewing experience to movie loves by offering their exclusive special features. This includes commentary and even exclusive curated programming made by guests in the film world and beyond. There’s 4 types of subscriptions (regular, regular + Criterion, annual, and even student), and they give a really substantial 14 day free trial.

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4 “Iconic” Lifetime Movies

A few weeks back while enjoying homemade pizza we decided to check out whatever was airing on Lifetime that night. Lifetime has a pretty great reputation for making a steady stream of movies we love to hate. In fact they are so popular Lifetime established a movie network that runs almost 24/7 showing them off. They have just become one of those things you can turn on in the background or watch all day long while laying on the couch. They are just so addicting.

The one viewed that night was Manny Dearest. I thought I could share some thoughts on it because rarely do you get a story about a creepy male nanny. There was quite a bit of humor involved in such a dark subject, but not as much as the classic, A Deadly Adoption, starring Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig. Instead I decided to revisit 4 truly iconic Lifetime movies from yesteryear. Lifetime movies have a few formulas, but the best ones are based on true stories that become even more dramatic for television. For this reason all the movies below are based on a true story (which happened accidentily).

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My Criterion Collection Selections

Wow that’s quite a few “tion” words, isn’t it? 

The Criterion Collection is one of my favorite things to ever exist. The Criterion Collection collects the most popular films and packages them with tons of exclusive extras for film lovers to enjoy. They are mastered for the greatest watching quality and new additions are made monthly. The collection has evolved as technology has changed and is currently available for streaming on Filmstruck. There is an expansive variety of directors, countries, and films to choose from.

What I love so much about the Criterion Collection are the exclusive cover art that each DVD/Blu-Ray comes with and I love the extras. They seek out commentary, extras, documentaries, behind the scenes footage and more to help the viewer enjoy the film with greater context. I’ve taken a lot of film classes and seen plenty of the movies available in the collection. I may also be guilty of marathon streaming movies a bunch I haven’t seen on Hulu Plus before they removed them.

One really cool thing Criterion does is allow you to create a collection online of movies through My Criterion. Make lists of films you own, a wish list of movies you want, and share them with others. Plus many filmmakers and industry members make their own lists to share with everyone when you need a new suggestion.

Below are 5 of my favorite films available on Criterion. There are over 150 films available so it was quite hard to narrow down just 5 (I have many more). I also have quite a bit of feelings about Armageddon being available on Criterion…but no one really wants to hear about that.

  • Band of Outsiders | Jean-Luc Godard (1964) – The French New Wave is one of my favorite genres to watch. Since Pierrot le Fou is out of print, this is the next best choice. The additional features in include excerpts from a documentary with Jean-Luc Godard and behind the scenes footage.

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Documentaries Worth Watching

It’s finally the weekend and time to relax by doing a whole lot of nothing. I usually spend time finding random documentaries on Netflix (there’s quite a few interesting ones about mysteries and cults if you like that kind of thing). I think documentaries are interesting because they give us a glimpse into worlds we may not see otherwise. As someone who loves learning I’ll watch a documentary on pretty much anything.

I have accumulated a few favorite subjects and specific documentaries. One of my favorite subjects ever in life is design. I would heart eyes emoji any time we watched one in my design class. Another subject I like is music. Not only does it give me a chance to hear the history of artists, songs or movements but I get to look at some things I might not have considered interesting before. Netflix has quite a few really good music documentaries if the aliens, conspiracies, and cults get old.

Below are some of my all time favorite documentaries. Aka the ones I talked people’s ears off with despite them desperately wanting me to shut up. Seriously I can talk about fonts for an unfortunate amount of time. 

  • Helvetica (available for rent on Amazon) – This documentary is about typography, graphic design, and the most popular (and recognizable) font. There are interviews with people who absolutely love it and those that can’t stand it. Its pretty surprising how widely used the font actually is from magazines and signs to television. I truly never realized how many places it appears. It also digs a little deeper into the people who create the fonts we use every day because they each have a story to tell.

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Back to School Watch List

Summer is unofficially over. On one hand it’s going to be great to stop the influx of summer vacation FOMO but on the other hand it means focusing on school (and pumpkin spice latte Instagrams). There’s really only one place to turn to when it’s time head back to school: teen movies.

Teen movies are great for a few reasons. First, once you’re out of high school you see them in a completely new light. Were the kids in my high school rich snobs like in Clueless? Would I have been the subject of Laney Boggs/Zack Siler situation? These movies become even better as an adult not only for nostalgia sake, but because they are absolutely insane concepts. You see things you don’t realize as a teenager and how illogical or implausible they are. Another reason they are great is they help you survive the years you are stuck in high school. See the characters are just like you (albeit played by twenty-something actors), living in towns just like yours, and engrossed in situations (a bit more farfetched) like yours. They are somewhat of an escape to places and people we wish we could be rather than the even crappier teenage situations we were in at the time. I mean there isn’t always a swift, romantic resolution or choreographed dance sequence at the prom.

So these are a few of my favorite teen movies for back to school season. I consider myself a lover of the teen movies so truly this is just a jumping off point.

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10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

10 Things I Hate About You is essentially The Taming of the Shrew for teenagers. There are two approaches to high school: you either embrace it and take all it has to offer or you shun it completely as ritualistic nonsense. Thankfully with 10 Things I Hate About You I was able to enjoy both sides equally (in real life I was much more of a Kat than a Bianca). Plus Joseph Gordon Levitt is quite the babe.

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Bring It On (2000)

Bring It On fed into my middle school cheerleading ways and made me optimistic about high school. Torrence was cool and looked like every model in a Seventeen magazine. Plus her love interest Cliff is literally everything athletic boys aren’t. He’s charming, witty, and has some serious air guitar skills. He’s everything I wanted in a high school boyfriend. The movie is funny and so ridiculous. Competitive cheerleading is SERIOUS business.

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The Breakfast Club (1985)

The Breakfast Club is essential teen movie viewing. It encompasses the high school experience from every perspective there is. 5 people from different walks of high school life forced to spend the day together where they unrealistically bond and act as though once detention ends they could ever continue this facade. The end is absolutely perfect and one of my favorite movie endings of all time. Real detention was not at all like this.

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Clueless (1995)

Clueless is probably the least relatable high school on this mini list. Not because regular teenage situations weren’t involved but because rarely does a high school like theirs exist. Sure in gym we played tennis, but not with a machine where balls flew at our faces. But also we couldn’t get Marky Mark to plant a celebrity tree for Arbor Day either (he was a distinguished actor by the time I entered high school). I grew up wanting to live in this movie for lack of a better reason to choose it. It’s a true classic and everything about it is perfect. I’m still really disappointed I didn’t get a white Jeep for my 16th birthday..but that’s a different blog post.

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She’s All That (1999)

She’s All That is literally a high school nightmare. Any group of popular kids who place a bet to make a nerdy outcast popular are just horrible. And that’s probably because I very easily could have been Laney, you know, if people actually did that in real life. There’s so much I love about this movie now. It has everything: a makeover, beach volleyball, a girl showing popular girls whose boss, an almost dated MTV Real World reference, and above all a choreographed prom dance sequence. Brilliant.