Lenora’s Top 10 Werewolf Movies

So I’ve officially been terrible at letting my new job keep me away from writing, but here we are in February ready for a new list! I hope you enjoy it!

While a good deal of people seem seduced by the idea of the vampire, I’ve always been more of a werewolf girl myself. Something about the idea of wild power always appealed to me more. Not to mention there is something inherently empowering to me as a woman about ferocious power coming on a monthly cycle! Unfortunately it seems like vampires dominate the film industry these days. But fear not! I’ve put together a list of my top ten favorite werewolf films for my fellow lycanthropy lovers. I hope y’all enjoy it!

  1. Late Phases

As a disabled person, I have a particular fondness for horror movies with disabled protagonists. Late Phases follows main character Ambrose, a blind Vietnam War vet with a seeing eye dog, as he moves into a retirement community, much to his chagrin. After the police brush off his new neighbor’s brutal murder as an animal attack, Ambrose decides he must take matters into his own hands. As he mounts his defense and begins investigating the locals, the werewolf begins to become more desperate for survival.

While not a critical or commercial success, I really appreciate Late Phases for being a solidly entertaining werewolf film, with a really great main character. It has great violence, a comedic streak, and depth to the major father/son relationship of the film. Definitely a popcorn movie, and not one for a person looking for a whole lot of psychological aspects.

 

  1. Cursed

 

A lot of people hate Cursed. A lot of people have good reason to hate Cursed. The Weinstein produced film was a critical flop that replaced an R-rating for a PG-13 one, and practical effects werewolves for CGI ones. That said, that Wes Craven magic acted by fantastic players like Christina Ricci, Jesse Eisenberg, and Michael Rosenbaum still has a place in my heart for what it is.

Siblings Ellie and Jimmy Myers’ lives change for the worse after a car crash and animal attack leave them feeling very strange indeed. Jimmy begins having the physical strength to stand up to bullies. Ellie finds herself attracted to the scent of blood on her friend. As people around them begin dying, they find themselves desperately searching for a way to end the curse that’s starting to take whole of them.

Wholly corny and campy, Cursed could have been a much better movie than it was. That said, I still genuinely like Cursed for exactly what it is. Well, I’ll still never forgive the studio for the CGI werewolves though. I don’t think anyone will.

 

  1. Bloodmoon (A.K.A. Wolf Girl)

 

Bloodmoon is a Canadian Romanian horror film follows the story of Tara, a teenager with a condition wherein hair covers her body giving her a werewolf like appearance. Desperate to leave the freak show she works at for a normal life, Tara begins taking a radically experimental depilatory treatment given to her secretly by her friend. The treatment works! But as her animal like appearance begins to fall away, her animal instincts begin to grow stronger and hungrier.

A nontraditional werewolf tale, Bloodmoon is surrealistic and delightfully unique in a lot of ways. Taking clear influences from Carrie, Ginger Snaps, and Tod Browning’s Freaks, the film forges a distinct path for itself that strays away from a more traditional werewolf film. With star studded guest appearances from Tim Curry and Grace Jones, Bloodmoon is definitely worth a watch if you can get your hands on it!

 

  1. Wolfen

 

Taking a cue from Italian giallo, Wolfen is a horror crime drama starring several well known names such as Albert Finney and Edward James Olmos.

A former NYPD captain and a criminal profiler are called in to investigate after a mogul and his wife are brutally murdered in Battery Park. Initially wanting to rule it a terrorist attack, the captain pushes beyond the preconceptions of the department to investigate the murders for what they are. The case grows more confusing when it’s discovered that the hairs found on the increasing numbers of victims belong to an undiscovered genus of wolf.

Despite delving into poorly fictionalized Native American legend, Wolfen is an intriguing movie with a solid ending that doesn’t cheapen things by trying to be happy an easily tied up. Ebert called the film and “uncommonly intelligent” example of the genre, and while there are certain aspects of the film I would change, Wolfen is still a great film that’s worth a watch.

 

  1. Wer

 

Starring AJ Cook from Criminal Minds, Wer is an American horror film following a defense attorney who finds out her client is actually a werewolf. Played in faux documentary style, Wer takes the werewolf genre and turns it on its side, demanding that the viewer acknowledges that werewolves are not in control of their actions and can’t legally be held accountable for their actions. The transformation sequence is also uniquely subtle, going for smaller changes rather than the dramatic skin ripping that has become du jour in many werewolf films.

While it drags in some spots due to the law procedural elements of the film, Wer is thoughtful and distinct, bringing lots of philosophical questions to the werewolf genre, while still keeping the violence and horror coming.

From here on out, the listings might be a little controversial! It was very difficult for me to rank all of the following films as anything but number 1!

 

  1. The Howling

 

Based on the novel by the same name, The Howling follows a tv journalist sent to a mountain resort to recover from an incident with a serial killer she was reporting on. Unbeknownst to her and her husband, all of the residents of the mysterious Colony are werewolves, and when the full moon hits, it becomes yet another fight for her life against the oncoming pack of lycanthropes. Not only that, she also discovers the serial killer stalking her has secrets of his own!

One of the more well known entries on this list, The Howling puts a more humorous and sexual twist on the serious novel it was based on. It also used state of the art practical effects that truly made the film stand out to great effect! Overall, the Howling is a classic for a reason, and it’s definitely a horror movie every fan of horror should take a gander at.

 

  1. Ginger Snaps

 

Following the more feminine interpretation of the werewolf myth as a metaphor for menstruation, Ginger Snaps tells the story of two death obsessed teenage outcasts who must deal with the deadly fallout of one of them being bitten by a werewolf. With her sister Ginger going out of her mind, Brigitte will go to any lengths to cure her sister of her curse.

Many of you have likely seen this film, so I won’t go into more detail. This movie is absolutely one of my favorite horror movies of all time. It weaves such an interesting look at female empowerment and debasement. It venerates the feminine as powerful, but also tears it down as deadly. I have a lot of complex feelings about this film, and I will likely go into them in a full review later on if anyone is interested.

 

  1. Dog Soldiers

 

More straightforward action than horror at times, Dog Soldiers is a gritty, high impact werewolf film. A group of special forces soldiers is dropped into the Scottish Highlands to find out what could have possibly killed the previous unit stationed there. After finding a mysterious zoologist stationed in the woods, they soon discover that their attackers are a deadly pack of werewolves. Straining against their own disbelief, their hunting mission soon becomes a fight for survival as they try to outlast their attackers until dawn. But as they begin getting picked off, things become even more confusing.

Dog Soldiers is one of the most solid traditional werewolf horror movies of the last couple of decades. It’s action packed, filled with mystery, and the special effects are A plus. It also has a strong cast lead by Event Horizon’s Sean Pertwee, Grey’s Anatomy’s Kevin McKidd, and Game of Throne’s alum Liam Cunningham. An utterly fantastic series of performances in a solidly put together movie make this one of my top choices for werewolf movies.

 

  1. The Wolfman

 

Does this film even need description? The ultimate classic Universal film tells the story of Larry Talbot’s return to his home in Wales to reconcile with his estranged father following Larry’s brother’s death. After developing affection for a local girl, he goes for a walk in the woods where he rescues her friend from a rabid animal attack. He is then warned by a local Romani woman that he now possesses the curse of the beast. Fighting against it with all his might, Larry is horrified as he begins to succumb to the awful curse.

Starring the preeminent Lon Chaney, Jr. and Claude Rains as Larry and John Talbot, The Wolfman is a classic not merely for its age but for the passion put into its performances. The special effects for the time period are magnificent, and the setwork is truly impeccable. No horror fan should go without seeing the Universal classic.

 

  1. An American Werewolf in London

 

Surprising no one, the ultimate werewolf film on this list is and always will be John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London. When a pair of American tourists face horrors out of the English moors, the surviving man begins going through a series of horrific changes.

This film needs little description, yet it is one of the greatest movies of the horror genre. With a combination of excellent suspense, mystery, and graphic body horror, An American Werewolf set the tone of the genre while consistently staying at the pinnacle of it. The special effects in this movie cannot go without mention. Even in–no, especially today in the era of CGI, the practical effects of An American Werewolf hold up in terrifying quality.

 

Top 13 Italian Giallo Horror Movies

(Apologies for any misspellings. I am currently wearing a immobilizer splint on my right middle finger, due to an injury.)

Startlingly bright blues; unnerving and sickly yellows; and above all else, lots and lots of brilliantly spattered crimson, overwhelming the viewer’s entire field of vision.

Suffice to say, I’m a huge fan of Italian horror. Specifically, Italian giallo, a specific type of horror cinema that incorporates mystery, thriller, and crime drama tropes, as well as (usually) a rich color palette. The names comes from the cheap horror thriller novels at the time, often known for their bright yellow (giallo in Italian) covers.

Even for those films on this list that do not fall into giallo, there is something irrevocably Italian about them. The dramatic costuming and setwork, the swelling music, and the general air of mystery combined with eroticism that is ever-present.

So without further ado, here are my top 13 Italian horror movies.

(Note: a lot of these movies are by Dario Argento and Mario Bava. That’s because I am totally biased, and I love them. Just so you know.)

Continue reading “Top 13 Italian Giallo Horror Movies”

Top 15 Feminist Horror Films

You’ve seen the formula. A beautiful co-ed, partially undressed lets down her guard only to be brutally murdered. An innocent young girl walks through the woods, secretly pursued by a monster or a monstrous man. A dark femme fatale uses her wiles to manipulate men but is either killed or redeemed by the power of a man. And there’s always a man in the cast. In fact, the cast is most likely all men, with the exception of the one pure virginal character who must be protected by them.

But what about horror that flips the formula? Horror where the women are the one’s in power, the one’s fighting off evil or embracing it to great power? Or at least just horror movies dealing with the complexities of feminine life?

These thirteen movies do just that, to one degree or another. They are fantastic movies that ditch the tired tropes of female weakness and go full bore into empowerment!

 

Note: There are two popular films notably absent from this list. The first is Alien, because I view it more as a sci-fi film. That is very well debateable, and it’s totally cool if you see otherwise. I also didn’t include The Babadook. It’s extremely popular and very well made, but I did not enjoy that movie at all for reasons I will likely go into on its own post.

Continue reading “Top 15 Feminist Horror Films”

Top 13 French Horror Films

 

While my favorite genre of Euro-horror will always be Italian giallo, I have an intense soft spot for all stripes of French horror. French horror has everything: ghost stories, murder mysteries, and an intensity that has earned new French horror cinema the term French Extremism. I love it so much, I couldn’t limit myself to just ten movies!

This list is all about my favorites of French horror cinema. From the classics to the brand new, this list covers what I believe to be the best–or at least most entertaining–films of French horror.

Continue reading “Top 13 French Horror Films”

Top 10 Spanish Language Horror Movies

Ok, so I’m the worst. I said back in October that I would get back to writing on this blog, and then I abandoned it again! It’s almost as if something traumatic happened in early November that’s taken awhile for me to get passed. To be fair, the drag of grad school also got to me, and I let it consume my life and my writing.

However, during that time, I got the chance to watch a lot of horror movies! So I’m BACK! For real this time, and hopefully with at least a small dash of vengeance.

Now, let’s get into today’s topic: Spanish language horror films. So often, they fall behind the wayside of “foreign” horror in favor of classics like Japanese and Italian or strong new presences from France and Korea. But Spanish speaking nations have put out some fantastic horror films over the decades, and it would be a shame for them to go unmentioned!

So without further ado, here are my top 10 favorite Spanish language horror films. As always, choices are subjective and trigger warnings with be included in the descriptions. If I miss something, please let me know, and let me know your favorites in the comments!

Continue reading “Top 10 Spanish Language Horror Movies”

They’re heeeeeere

I actually mean I’m back. But that doesn’t scan as well here as a horror movie quote. And since I’m going to see Poltergeist at Full Moon Cineplex this Friday, I figured I’d call back to one of my favorite horror movies!

I’ve had a lot going on in the past few years, and this blog went by the wayside. It wasn’t my intention. It also wasn’t my intention for this blog to ever become a personal blog. However, since coming back, I think it’s going to become a mix of the personal and the media critique/review I was doing before. Despite my funny (or my attempting to be funny) reviews, I was going through a very rough place at that time and now….I’m still going through a rough place. But now I’m more aware of that, and more willing to confront that. I also feel I’ve grown a lot and am able to analyze media a lot better than I was able to before!

So hopefully in the next few days I’m gonna try to review a couple horror movies, and also maybe a personal post or two.

Lenora’s Top Twenty Villainous Women of Horror

JettaKD’s Top Twenty Villainous Women of Horror

I literally could not narrow my choices down to ten, and even then I had to make some sacrifices and hard decisions. I eventually narrowed the list down to twenty.

NOTE: This is important: I did not include villainous children on this list. Hence the lack of characters like Samara/Sadako, Regan Macneil, and others. There WILL be a villainous kids list, including both genders of kids on it. Also, eliminated non-human villains. That’ll be another list as well.

NOTE the second: I know some of these are technically “thriller” movies but I think they are worth putting on this list.

This article contains spoliers.

Now onto the evil ladies

20. Ginger Fitzgerald – Ginger Snaps
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The werewolf sub-genre is one of the most male dominated sub-genres of all horror films, to be honest, but by far one of the best werewolf films of all is Ginger Snaps. The villain of this film is Ginger Fitzgerald, a teenage girl bitten by a werewolf, and thus setting off one of the most awkward female puberty metaphors of all time. Idk, I never mutilated a guidance counselor while going through puberty, but I suppose everyone’s experience is different.

Despite being used as a pretty sexist metaphor, Ginger is an awesome villain who holds her own until the very end of the film.

19. Baby Firefly – Devil’s Rejects
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Despite being basically eye-candy in the first film, Vera-Ellen Wilson, better known as Baby Firefly, comes into her full and evil glory by the time Devil’s Rejects rolls around. At age seven, she stabbed a classmate with a homemade knife, and it went downhill ever since. While she’s usually used as bait for unwary people that her male family members wish to kill, she does some pretty terrible things in her own right. The face mask scene comes to mind…

18. Dararai – Body #19
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I eliminated a lot of vengeful ghosts on this list, but I couldn’t here. No ghost, not even many other terrifying ghosts of Asian horror, is this evil. Dararai sets up elaborate plots for her victims to die in: death by barbed wire, for example. Even while alive, she was a particularly evil professor, once forcing a girl under hypnosis to be triggered by horrifying memories of abuse and wet herself in fear in front of all her classmates. While the movie is a bit drawn out in places, Dararai and her evil hauntings make it worth it.

17. Nancy Downs – The Craft
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Nancy at first seems to fit the “troubled teen with a heart of gold” stereotype, until it becomes apparent that hr new friend Sarah is a more powerful witch than her. Driven by jealousy, Nancy turns their other friends against Sarah. She kills her Mom’s boyfriend, disguises herself as Sarah and sleeps with Sarah’s guy, and taunts Sarah about her attempts at suicide. She is the epitome of the evil high school goth girl.

16. Brenda – Urban Legend
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Okay so these movies are more nineties-tastic than a Fresh Prince marathon and they generally suck. But Brenda after the final reveal is pretty damn terrifying. The lengths she goes to get her revenge just show how truly unhinged she has come. Also, I am a bit swayed by her awesome hair.

15. Tooth Fairy – Darkness Falls
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I cannot hate this movie. I know so many people hate this movie, but I just can’t, despite it’s cheese factor. The Tooth Fairy, the ghost of a woman burned at the stake after being accused of witchcraft, is a genuinely scary villain. Plus the concept of mixing a ghost story with a child’s story like the Tooth Fairy, not to mention the lifelong damage she causes kids who don’t die after seeing her, is honestly scary.

14. Christabella – Silent Hill
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Even if I were including children on this list, Alessa is not nearly as evil imo than cult leader Christabella. She is the catalyst behind Alessa becoming evil, she is the reason why Silent Hill exists. Most of all, she was perfectly willing to trick a woman and take her child and burn the child alive while the mother was just one room over. And even after all that happened, she thought she was perfectly justified. Fanatics make the most terrifying villains.

13. Mrs. Carmody – The Mist
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Speaking of terrifying fanatics, I present Mrs. Carmody from Stephen King’s The Mist. My fiance probably said it best when he said, “Mrs. Carmody is real. That’s why she’s so scary. Cause we all know that somewhere out there, she exists. And that there’s more than one of her.” Piece of advice kids, if you get caught in an apocalyptic scenario don’t trust the soccer mom telling you how this is God’s retribution. Especially if she starts talking about human sacrifices.

12. Amanda Young – Saw series
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After freeing herself from one of serial killer Jigsaw’s traps, Amanda goes insane and becomes his accomplice. She kidnaps most of his victims, and goes beyond even his purposes by designing her own traps that are completely inescapable. Some of her scenes were so violent that they had to be cut from the film and only released as deleted scenes. When even Jigsaw finds your moral questionable, you have crossed the moral event horizon.

11. Kayako Saeki – The Grudge
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Kayako would be a lot less terrifying as a ghost if she were you’re run of the mill vengeful ghost. But no. Because instead of just wanting revenge on those who wronged her, Kayeko wants revenge on everyone to set foot in her house. She’s kind of extreme that way, so much so that she comes back for two sequels.

And now we hit the top ten!

10. Marya Zaleska – Dracula’s Daughter
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A highly underrated film from the Universal Studios monster collection is Dracula’s Daughter. Marya starts out sympathetically, only wanting to become human and distance herself from her father’s legacy. But when her plans fail and the man she loves spurns her, she embraces her heritage and becomes evil. She steals away the object of her love’s affections, but is eventually defeated by the hero. This movie was also featured as part of the documentary “The Celluloid Closet”, as there were so many hints about Marya actually being a lesbian that the male love interest seemed pathetically tacked on.

9. Peyton Flanders – The Hand that Rocks the Cradle
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After her husband is arrested for sexually assaulting his patients and she loses her baby and ability to have children, Peyton goes on a quest for revenge. She becomes the nanny to the patient that first reported her husband’s crimes and slowly tries to turn the children against her and replace herself into the other woman’s life. After almost completely ruining her employer’s life, she is discovered and decides to murder her. The lengths Peyton goes to get revenge are chilling.

8. Julia Cotton – Hellraiser
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Everyone remembers the Cenobites, but for most of the first movie and a good part of the second, Julia and her shoulder pads are formidable villains. In order to restore her dead lover (her husband’s brother), she lures unsuspecting men back to the house and lets him steal their body parts for his own use. Eventually, she let’s him use her own husband for such ends. She tries to kill her step-daughter and seems perfectly willing to let Frank assault his own niece. In the second film, she seems even worse, pretty much trying to kill everyone in sight before being dragged back to hell.

7. Hedy Carlson – Single White Female
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Hedy at first seems like the perfect friend. She helps Allie deal with her break-up, she’s fascinated with everything Allie does, always compliments her clothes and looks…. And then Hedy tries to steal Allie’s life. She dyes her hair the same color, brings home a dog so that they’ll have that to tie them together, and dresses exactly like her. After Allie’s neighbor tries to warn her, Hedy kills him, and then seduces Allie’s boyfriend under the guise of being Allie and kills him when he realizes his mistake. She is taken out eventually, but her time on screen is so freaky, she’s even got lines in rap songs written about her.

6. Pamela Voorhees – Friday the 13th
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The ultimate monster momma, Pam Voorhees is generally forgotten in favor of her more movied son. But without her, the long Jason franchise never would have taken off and the tradition of killing sexed-up teens and young adults would have floundered.

5. Alex Forrest– Fatal Attraction
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Another vengeful lady, who famously coined the term “bunny boiler” after her psychotic revenge on her ex-lover led her to kill his young daughter’s pet in a pot of stew. She launched a thousand less successful thrillers and horror films, and none will ever compare to Alex from Fatal Attraction.

4. Marie – Haute Tension
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Marie at first seems like a magnificent heroine, but as the plot commences, we discover that not only has she lost her mind and that her experiences are complete delusions, but that she is responsible for the murders that took place. As she realizes this, she gives in to it and begins chasing the object of her affections with a chainsaw, almost killing her. She is eventually locked away in an asylum, but she proves in the final scene that given the chance, she’d do it all over again.

3. Asami Yamazaki – Audition
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Under the guise of a retired ballerina, Asami auditions for the “part” of a new wife to the film’s protagonist, in a fake film designed to jump start the widower’s love life. She waits a solid four days by the phone for his call, and when it rings, we discover Asami’s terrifying secret: the bag in her flat holds a body. She seems to have the widower under her spell, until she discovers a photo of his dead wife and proceeds to drug and kidnap him out of jealousy for a dead woman. She proceeds to torture him—in such a gruesome fashion that many initial audience members left the theater—until his son comes to his rescue.

2. Annie Wilkes – Misery
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The third Stephen King character on the list, no discussion of female horror villains is complete without adding Annie Wilkes. The obsessed fan became an icon of horror, and performed one of the most memorable acts of violence in film. Seemingly sweet and demure, but totally psychotic, Annie is one of film’s best villains and one of Kathy Bates’ best roles.

1. La Femme – Inside
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An unnamed woman begins stalking the house of a nine months pregnant widow. She relentlessly kills everyone who tries to help the poor mother: the cops, family friends, even the woman’s mother who comes to visit her. What does she want? To cut the unborn baby out of the young mother’s womb and take it for her own. And she will stop at nothing to get what she wants. La Femme is one of the most ruthlessly cruel, dangerously psychotic, and legitimately scary villains in film. And seriously if that face isn’t a “don’t smoke psa” I don’t know what is, cause seriously *nightmares forever*.

Lenora’s Top Ten Female Horror Characters*

*That don’t include Ellen Ripley.

This is also blogged on Livejournal, under my screenname there: jettakd 🙂

I want to start this off with a disclaimer. I love Ellen Ripley. Don’t get me wrong on that. She is a bamf among bamfs and one of the most amazing women in film, regardless of genre. That said, I feel as if, she is often the “token” woman character for any list of horror characters, and always number one for any list of women in horror. This list is not to detract from Ellen Ripley, but to present some other equally awesome, and in some case vastly underrated, heroines of horror from around the world.

10. Maureen Epps – Ghost Ship.

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There are very few movies in which a woman is the final survivor. She can be one of them, of course, but it’s generally because a man has saved her. Not Maureen Epps. Played by Juliana Marguiles, Epps is a badass salvager who holds her own with the rest of her all male crew. When things begin to go wrong on a mysterious abandoned cruise ship, she is the first to notice the peculiarities. She is the one to warn her fellow crew members, and she is also the one to talk with the spirits and understand what happened. Even after the film’s twist ending, she tries to fight off aid in order to save more people.

9. Paula Henning – Anatomie

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Paula was not someone I thought would end up one this list, when I watched the Nineties-tatstic, German horror film Anatomie. But as a heroine she stands out pretty well. Paula is a medical student and is the only one who notices when mysterious things begin to happen with the student’s practice corpses. This leads to to the trail of a centuries old cult that shakes her faith and drastically alters the image she held of certain family members.

She’s independent, intelligent, and strongly moral, among a sea of stereotypical drunk, dumb and horny college students, who seem unconcerned with the plot’s growing danger. She even ends up saving her man in the end after giving him a thorough tongue lashing for being less than honest with her! The movie isn’t great, by any means, but Paula is a great underrated movie heroine.

8. Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster version) – Silence of the Lambs

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No offense to any Julianne Moore fans, as I think she is a wonderful actress…BUT I feel as though she ruined the character of Clarice Starling. Jodie Foster was right to turn down the recurring role. Jodie’s Clarice is a strong woman, brave enough to try to fool one of history’s most brilliant sociopathic masterminds despite his constant mind games. She also singlehandedly takes down Buffalo Bill and saves his newest victim from a horrifying end. Clarice is a wonderful agent of the FBI and I personally refuse to believe that Hannibal happened.

7. Kirsty Cotton – Hellraiser

Kirsty Cotton seems at first like your everyday, ’80s vapid teen. But the way she conquers what must be a mind-numbing amount of fear dealing with her uncle, step-mother, and the Cenobites, especially in light of what happens to her father, gives her a strong place on this list. She comes back for more movies as well, managing to defeat the Cenobites in the second movie, and manipulate them to glorious ends in the sixth.

6. Rose and Cybil- Silent Hill

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I debated placing Donna from Cujo in this place, but decided against it. Donna acted on instinct to save herself and her son. Rose acts on courage, sheer determination, and motherly love. Cybil didn’t even have those obligations to Sharon, but still stood by to help a little girl lost in the hellish town. Silent Hill in general is a wonderful movie for women in horror.

5. Hayley – Hard Candy

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The art of female revenge is a long-standing trope of horror exploitation cinema, and Hard Candy handles it brilliantly. When a seemingly 14 year old Hayley meets with a much older man from the internet, we as an audience cringe and want to desperately to save her. But Hayley does not need saving.

Hayley at first seems the ingenue, then the villain, and then a sort of terrifying and somewhat psychotic hero for doing what she does to the film’s male lead. A YMMV on how much of a hero she is, but she is definitely a powerful female character.

4. Mercedes – Pan’s Labyrinth

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Despite loving the film’s main lead, the rebel Mercedes takes a much more knowing risk by spying for the anti-fascistwithin Captain Vidal’s household. We have seen how cruel the man is from his treatment of complete innocents, much less his actual enemies. when he finds her out, instead of meekly accepting her fate and dying, she escapes and delivers a terrible wound to her captor, and eventually claims the ultimate revenge on the obsessively patriarchal Vidal by taking his son from him right before his death.

3. Selena – 28 Days Later

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The fact that she was still alive at the beginning of the movie is somewhat of a feat considering how destructive the Rage virus was. Selena manages to be a strong soldier and also a loving friend, killing zombies and a few scenes later comforting Hannah as it seems they are about to be assaulted by the soldiers. Despite being rescued by the male protagonist/love interest, she saves him return more than once so I see that as even. She and Hannah both are wonderfully strong characters and the fact that they live, unlike so many women in horror movies (especially women of color), is a good model for future horror film.

2. Miss Moriguchi – Kokuhaku/Confession

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This is another one that can be heavily debated, belonging once again in the “revenge” genre. To categorize it–or even put it on the same level as–Hard Candy does a great disservice to both films.

Miss Moriguchi is a teacher of middle school. She was a single mother whose partner was dying of AIDS and cancer when their 4 year old daughter is murdered. By two of her own students. After hearing her students gleefully confess to her what they did to her daughter, knowing they couldn’t be charged under Japan’s juvenile offender laws, she decides to take revenge into her own hands….

By never laying a hand on them. Her revenge is both brutal and subtle, twisted and yet shockingly just; the ending of this film will likely leave you speechless. Though it’s slow to start, with a main character like Miss Moriguchi, it is no wonder that this was Japan’s entry into the Academy Awards the year it was released.

1. Sarah – The Descent

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Sarah, in my opinion, is ultimately the most human realistic character out of all of these brilliant women of horror. She is strong and flawed and adventurous and crude and everything that goes against the stereotypes of either the shrieking flower love interest or the female badass who seems to look down on other women as much as any male protagonist. She mourns, she recovers, and during all her experiences in the cave, she keeps pushing forward. Depending on which ending of The Descent you prefer to think of as the “real” ending, she overcame everything you’d think life could throw at her and then some.

I realize I have left out many great heroines of horror, so feel free to post your favorites in the comments!

Rawhead Rex (1986)

I know that by polling, I was supposed to review Ghost Ship first but I got halfway through writing it and hit a block. Therefore, y’all are getting an early review of Clive Barker’s Rawhead Rex.

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I want to start this out by saying, I love Clive Barker. As a writer. His movies…eh, they’re generally hit or miss with me. Some of them are amazing like Hellraiser and Nightbreed, but most of them…. Well. They’re special to my heart at least?

That being said, even Clive Barker hates this movie. They gave him zero budget and he will only talk about it to rant at people how many ways the studio screwed him over. In a way, this is the Star Wars: Holiday Special of Clive Barker movies, but with less Bea Arthur and more Irish stereotypes.

Rawhead Rex is a story about a pre-Christian monster that had been sealed away by local Druids, when they sealed him in a large stone obelisk that quite unambiguously looks like a giant rock penis. I can’t find a good picture of it and I don’t have the DVD to screencap it, but seriously. Even by obelisk standards, the thing is incredibly phallic.

A bunch of stereotypical Irish farmers decide that they have to get rid of the obelisk for the sake of the fields, because apparently it’s gone thousands of years without being any issue but by 1986 they’d just had enough. Either that or someone finally pointed out to the farmer that he had a giant stone genitalia in his fields.

Meanwhile, a plucky American photographer named Howard Hallenbeck makes his way to a local church to take pictures of the local pre-Christian relics and the stained glass of the church. He does this while driving a van in which the cameraman is clearly still visible in the back seat from the rear window. Cinematography, dear readers, is paramount in this film. He goes in to ask if he can see the records for the church and land, and runs into Creepy O’Demonpriest, who looks like the abberant offspring of Renfield and Bill Nye the Science Guy.

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He directs our plucky American’s attention to the stained glass window with a picture of the Rawhead whose glass eyes either particular magnify light or are constantly being beamed into by a couple of bored Irish kids with laser pointers. Our protagonist is then rescued from the awkwardness of standing near Father Pagan O’ DonaHenchman by the vicar of the parish who deflects the photographer’s questions like a grandfatherly Irish ninja.

Meanwhile, his friends and tractor having failed him, the farmer finally managed to knock the giant stone phallus over. By leaning on it with a shovel. Because that makes perfectly logical sense in every way.

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And then jumps out the Rawhead:

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This is Rawhead Rex and he looks like the bastard lovechild of a goomba and the troll from Ernest Scared Stupid, thus making my embarrassing childhood favorites into even more reason for ridicule (I will defend both of them to the grave though >.>)

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The suit has very little articulated movement, the mouth moves on hydraulics and the actor’s mouth is clearly visible inside the suit when he opens the monster mouth wide enough, and instead of blinking the eyes are made of strobing red LEDs. Industrial Light and Magic, these people are not. The monster immediately kills the farmer by unconvincingly bashing him on the head. He then begins a reign of terror, as pre-Christian monsters are generally wont to do.

He starts off his rampage of terror by going after a man and his pregnant wife. He kills the man quickly and then barges into the house after the wife. Also, there are apparently absolutely no such thing as door hinges in Ireland, because instead of flying open, they just explode off straight into a room.

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He rips her dress, as he will with most women in the movie, but all of her clothes don’t come off. Just enough for the audience to see the fake pregnancy pillow as it nearly falls to the actress’s knees, but whatever, it’s not like audiences notice that stuff right? Upon seeing the preggo pillow, Rawhead seems to have a change of heart and leaves the scene. He takes the husband’s body with him though, just dragging it behind him. For miles. Through a caravan park. Y’know while being an eight foot tall dinosaur in Shredder’s rejected clothing from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies. Without anyone seeing him. But since there’s a murderer on the loose, the police do gather together an Irish posse, which I imagine smells like Guiness and poor life decisions. They make their own way to the caravan park.

We then are introduced to a pair of horny teenagers making out in front of the girl’s kid brother, because that’s what responsibility is all about. The boy is understandably grossed out and nags them about it until they leave, and the guy steals the kids toy because he’s a douchebag. The boy follows after them but spots the Rawhead and is struck dumb with fright and begins to act like every child who ever countered any urban legend ever.

We pan back to the couple. The girlfriend says she has something important to tell the boyfriend but we never find out what that is as they run up on the Rawhead with his first victim strung up from a tree. I’d say he was eating him, but honestly from the type of fake wounds they used it looked more like the Rawhead was using him as a scratching post like a particularly demonic cat (aka my Mom’s cat, Camille, queen of evil and harbinger of joy/mosquito killing.) The girl gets away dragging her boyfriend by the hand.

She turns up at the park and runs to the posse, but when she looks back for her bf…yeah. Apparently the Rawhead severed his hand and she was carrying that behind her and didn’t notice the lack of drag, breathing, screaming, or overwhelming scent of whatever the 80s equivalent of AXE body spray was. I’m beginning to think the Rawhead is less monster and more a giant foam rubber Darwin’s chainsaw of natural selection.

Our author/photographer Howard has taken a break from the hotel where his irritating wife, adorable daughter, and demon-spawn son are staying because apparently he doesn’t care that there’s a murderer on the loose, just as long as he isn’t actually forced to discipline or even interact with his own children. To be fair, one of his own children is a raging douche.

He spots the Rawhead on top of a hill, holding the decapitated head of the toolshed boyfriend aloft in the moonlight growling something about, there can only be one?. He goes to the police and is rebuffed,because seriously, it’s a fucking dinosaur. He tries to drive his family out of town the next morning, because deciding to get away from a town with a rampaging murderous dinosaur is something you just have to sleep on. As they are driving, the daughter/the only sympathetic character in this film has to stop to go to the bathroom and finds a dead rabbit behind the bush. Her screams distract her parents from the car, and the Rawhead comes in an eats the irritating older brother.

Honestly, I’d like to think Rawhead and the little girl planned it together.

Hallenbeck solves some random puzzles and discovers there’s an artifact that can stop the Rawhead, and it’s in the church. Unfortunately Creeper Priest, as can be guessed from the first five minutes of the movie, is evil. He also apparently likes ancient Gaelic demons peeing on him. To each their own I guess.

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The priest comes in and tries to grab the relic, but apparently everyone who touches the chest that holds it is burned. Hallenbeck burns himself badly, but he manages to get the relic which is essentially a cheap plaster Venus of Willendorf with a giant gaping vagina. I mean this literally as it stretches from between the legs to between the breast and all across the stomach. Apparently, the obelisk was the more subtle approach in this movie. Unfortunately, the relic does nothing against the Rawhead or the incredibly hilarious overacting of his human servant. The Rawhead killed the priest though. Even he found him annoying.

Mrs. Hallenbeck had followed her husband to the church though, and she picks up and activates the relic, leading her husband to the startling revelation that a giant magic vagina statue might be meant for a woman to use. The power of female sexuality opens up a giant cavern in the earth and swallows Rawhead whole, because f*** subtlety. And thus Rawhead is sealed in the Earth until the end of the credits where he makes a Carrie-like jump scare and then never delivers with a sequel. Thank God.

At the end of this movie, I kind of side-eyed my bf, who had bought the movie, but he informed me that this was probably the best they could do.

Me: Why?
Will: Well, he looked different in the book. He wasn’t a dinosaur.
Me:…what was he?
Will:….
Me: Oh God, it wasn’t…?
Will: Yeah.

Readers, when a movie makes more sense when you realize the villain was an eight foot tall animate penis in the source material, you might want to reevalute your film choices. That is all.

Welcome to the Blog that Dreads Sundown!

Hello, everyone! I’m Lenora, and this is The Blog That Dreaded Sundown. This blog is to be dedicated to reviewing horror movies, with my goal being at least one review a week. Hopefully, I will be able to help people find new, unearthed gems of horror movies, ward them off sucktastic ones, and warn of anything that might particular cause emotional harm to a viewer if it comes up unexpectedly (such as Splice and it’s surprise sexual assault scenes).

The name of the blog comes from the very first movie I’m reviewing!

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) is an early slasher film, based on the true story of the Texarkana Phantom Killer who was responsible for a series of brutal attacks and five murders in the summer of 1946. The movie stars Ben Johnson, Charles B. Pierce (who also directed) and Dawn Wells, better known to viewers as Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island. Though it was rated R, it contained none of the excess gore and sadism of Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left, which was released four years prior.

This movie is an underrated gem, which went out of print years ago. I was lucky to find a bootleg (is it bootleg if it’s public domain at this point?) DVD of it recently. It has a vastly unappreciated influence on the modern slasher genre as we know it: in fact, the original hood Jason wore in the first few FT13 movies was directly inspired by the mask of the Phantom Killer.

But asides from being an absolute gem of a horror movie—one which is generally ignored at that—it has a special place in my heart for another reason. A reason good enough for me to dedicate my whole blog to it and make it my first review.

This movie scared the ever-living piss out of my dad when he was a teenager. Allow me to explain:

Asides from MPAA ratings, my dad was a terrible judge of what was appropriate for me as a child. Also, he enjoyed scaring the bejeebus out of tiny me. This resulted in nightmares caused by such wonderful childhood memories as seeing Han Solo frozen in carbonite and Dad not telling me that he would be okay, seeing the titular Apes of Charlton Heston’s Planet of the Apes cut out one of the explorer’s brains, and letting me see the sand eels ear-penetrate Chekov and the Red Shirt in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. He also would lure toddler-me with Oreos, resulting in me running into table corners, but that’s neither here nor there.

In short, my buying this movie was an act of glorious and long-deserved revenge. That being said, on with the review of this amazing film.

The movie begins with a dramatic narration, much like those found in movies that deserve to be on MST3K instead of on the shelf of someone who enjoys serious horror. Don’t be fooled though; despite the cheesy, period-style narration, the movie gets serious very quickly when our first two victims decided to go “parking”.

While out on the ubiquitous Lover’s Lane that every horror movie style small town has, Sammy and Linda Mae begin to have car trouble. It seems to start out as a joke, a trick played by Sammy to keep his girlfriend Linda Mae from going home so soon.

Then all hell breaks loose.

Just as the viewer is lulled into a false sense of security, the hood of the car pops up and an inhumanely tall, thin man wearing what resembles a flour-sack on his head takes one of the valves from the engine, leaving them truly stranded. He smashes the window and drags a struggling Sammy out, followed by Linda Mae. It’s implied he beats them with the same pipe he used to break the window.

For such a formulaic scene, it’s incredibly intense, thanks mostly to brilliant acting and camera work. The screams of terror are disturbingly realistic—none of the over produced, stock noise screams you generally hear nowadays. Despite never seeing the brunt of the attack taking place, the scene sill gives a feeling of nauseating terror. These fears are justified when we see Linda Mae next morning.

Another thing I love about this movie is that they don’t exaggerate what actually happened for the purpose of being more edgy. Like their real life counterparts, Linda Mae and Sammy both survive.

During the night, a bruised and bleeding Linda Mae managed to crawl towards the main road for safety, eventually being rescued by a local man. At the hospital, it is revealed that the Phantom not only beat her but also bit her, “literally chewed on her” according to the movie. The police begin to warn the local kids about parking, and they generally listen. At least, until 21 days later, when two more victims are claimed by the Phantom, both of them shot dead in the woods. The town instates a curfew, from which the movie draws it’s own title.

Because of the lack of apparent motive, the town’s police call in the Texas Rangers, specifically the famous Captain Morales, who has dealt with serial killers before, and several agents of the FBI. The presence of these men cause many of the local oddballs to call in confessing to the crime.

There’s one thing about this movie I hate that I’m going to bring up now, because it really starts in this scene. That is the character nicknamed Sparkplug. He’s a completely unnecessary, groan-worthy attempt at comic relief that only manages to slow the movie down and give it some serious mood whiplash in places. I wish he had gone the way of most horror movie comic reliefs and been killed off in the first twenty minutes because he brings absolutely nothing good to this movie.

Another way in which The Town that Dreaded Sundown influenced future slasher films was with the gag kill. We all know this one some way or another whether it be Jason smashing the frozen face of one victim or the hilarious blood geyser that killed Johnny Depp in the original Nightmare on Elm Street. Well, The Town That Dreaded Sundown started that. And it all started with a trombone.

After finishing playing in the band at he own prom (which has to suck on so many levels), Peggy is persuaded by her boyfriend Roy to bag up her trombone and go for some cuddle time on Lover’s Lane. Having seen this film, I am determined that 1940s Texarkana had to have had the most boring Lover’s Lane ever. The two of them nod off and wake up well after Peggy’s curfew and Roy frantically starts his car to get her home without too much trouble.

The Phantom, having decided to forgo engine tampering and just go all the way to crazy town the hard way, jumps on the car as it’s driving off. Roy panics and swerves the car all over the wooded area. The Phantom eventually gets the door open and drags Roy out, causing Peggy to abandon ship as well before the car crashes. Roy gets pistol-whipped into unconsciousness, and the killer goes after Peggy. He ties her to a tree and then shots a newly conscious Roy in the head as he tries to rescue his girlfriend. Then begins the most iconic kill of the film.

The Phantom takes out his knife. He takes out the trombone. He ties the knife to the trombone’s slide.


Yes, readers, the Phantom trombones a girl to death. It’s equal parts horrifying, because the acting in this film is fantastic and you really feel sorry for the girl, but at the same time…he’s killing her with a trombone. And that’s kind of hilarious.

The frustrated police speak in a restaurant the next day, profiling the killer and venting their frustrations at two more murders. The scene is nothing special, until the camera pans the the feet of the man next to their table and we realize from his shoes and slacks that the killer is listening in on their conversation.

We’re given false hope in the next scene when a man named Johnson (acted by Sir The Only Black Person with a Speaking Role), comes in claiming to have been held hostage by a man who threatened to shoot him and claimed to the be the Phantom Killer. The police track him down but this proves fruitless—it was an empty threat by a guy who wanted to hitchhike without paying for gas.

Shortly after this, the most recognizable scene of the movie occurs. This is the scene that gave my dad three weeks worth of nightmares.

A couple is home alone when the Phantom appears in the window and shoots the husband in the head. The wife is wounded but manages to escape the house with the Phantom pursuing her with a pick axe. They end up in a terrifying game of cat versus mouse in the cornfields.


She’s finally rescued by a farmer with a shotgun when she stumbles and falls half dead in his yard.

The day afterward, Morales and the Sheriff get a tip on a car resembling the one seen at the second murder. They follow it up and run into the Phantom himself. The Phantom is shot in the leg but manages to escape into the swamps and is never heard from again.

And that’s it. Because that’s how it actually happened. There’s no glamorization, no trumped up happy ended, no final scene shock of the Phantom hopping out of the bog. And it’s wonderful.

I cannot recommend this movie enough to any fan of horror. It appeals to the hardcore fans and casual fans who don’t want too much gore in their films. The acting and cinematography are brilliant even disregarding the time it was done. If you can track down a copy of this film, then it’s more than worth giving a watch!