“Who Can Kill a Child?” (1976) REVIEW

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When it comes to ‘killer kiddies’, I’d have to say this Spanish film from 1976 is my favorite — far surpassing Village of the Damned and even Children of the Corn. The kids in this film don’t kill because they’re from another planet, and they’re not inspired to kill because some god of harvest told them to — they simply do it because it’s how they ‘play’.

An Englishman and his pregnant wife decide to go holiday before their baby is born, so they head to an exotic Spanish island that they soon find is fairly deserted. In fact, the only inhabitants they do come across are kids, no older than their early teens. Soon, things turn grim as the couple realize the kids possess incredibly cruel and violent tendencies.

What I really love about this movie is, as I mentioned before, that the kids aren’t robotic, silent killers. They laugh and play and run around while killing people. They act like normal children, except incredibly deranged. Also, the title of the film brings up a moral dilemma that seems to be overlooked in all of these ‘killer kiddie’ films: you may think you’re capable of anything if pushed far enough, but when face to face with one, would you be able to kill a child?

Well shot, great score, incredibly tense and filled with jaw-dropping scenes — this is a must see.

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“In the Mouth of Madness” (1995) REVIEW

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When it comes to American horror directors, no one has been as consistent – besides Wes Craven, in my opinion – as John Carpenter (I’d say Cronenberg, but he’s Canadian, and Argento and Fulci hail from the Boot.) While there are a few bombs in his catalog, and he’s always willing to explore the full spectrum of horror – from suspense, to sci-fi, to fantasy. In the Mouth of Madness is Lovecraftian in material, from the surreal plot to the New England location.

Sam Neill plays an investigator who’s hired to find a popular horror novelist, Sutter Cane, who just disappeared after his most recent book was released. After reading some of the author’s material, Neill starts to have weird dreams and visions that haunt him constantly, even while he’s awake. He soon discovers a hidden map, created when the covers of all the books are rearranged. He figures the map will lead him to Cane’s whereabouts, so he follows it to a bizarre, desolate town called Hobb’s End. Everything starts to fall apart after that, and in the end you’re never really sure what was reality and what was “madness”.

This one was super overlooked when it came out in 1995, but I loved it the first time I saw it. So much weird shit happens, so many creepy visuals.

Trivia: this is the final film in Carpenter’s ‘apocalypse trilogy’, following The Thing and Prince of Darkness.

“Monkey Shines” (1988) REVIEW

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Despite having that foggy, made-for-television look so many TV movies had in the late 80s and early 90s, this was actually a major studio film; George Romero’s first, to be exact…and his last. He was apparently so disheartened with the reception of the film that he resigned himself to making only independent films from there on out (and a thousand trite zombie sequels later, he’s stuck to his word. Thanks, George.)

Personally, I really like the film. There’s little blood and little violence; it’s almost Hitchcockian in it’s delivery. The story goes like this: a young, athletic man named Alan is paralyzed from the neck down in a freak accident. To help assist him at home — and to lift him out of his depression — one of his scientist buddies gets a hold of a super-smart Capuchin monkey named Ella. Soon, Alan and Ella develop a super strong bond that borders on telepathic. Ella senses Alan’s rage and starts to act on it. Eventually Alan realizes what’s going on, but at that point it’s too late — Ella has become too smart for her own good and won’t listen to anyone, not even Alan himself.

Like I said, it’s fairly bloodless, though SFX wizard Tom Savini did provide some unsettlingly realistic surgery scenes. I’m not usually a fan of animal horror, but watching Ella go from sweet and unassuming to relentlessly evil, torturing her quadriplegic owner is pretty terrifying. She puts King Kong and Mighty Joe Young to shame. And she’s a lady, to boot.

“Don’t Look Now” (1973) REVIEW

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This creepy 1973 film is more psychological thriller than flat out horror, but I’d say the film as a whole is pretty horrific and unsettling.

After the accidental drowning death of their daughter, Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie take a business trip to Italy so he can restore a church. While there, they encounter two sisters, one of whom is blind and claims to be clairvoyant (she’s totally terrifying.) The psychic sister informs the couple that their deceased daughter is trying to warn them of some impending danger. Sutherland dismisses them at first, but soon starts seeing what he believes is his little daughter — recognizable by her little red raincoat — all around Venice. Soon, they seem to be surrounded by danger, from accidents while restoring the church to reports of a serial killer prowling the streets.

Christie goes back to the states after she’s informed that their son has been in an accident. Sutherland, now alone, goes in search of ‘his daughter’, and the results are truly terrifying.

Like Pet Sematary after it, this film explores the emotions that go along with losing a child and the psychological effect it has on a parent: what lengths will they go to for closure, and how much danger will they put themselves in? The answer is usually “far too much”, resulting in even more tragedy than to begin with.

Though a British production, the film has a very Italian feel — and not just because it was shot in Venice. The use of color is important in the film, and it was shot and edited very stylistically. And if ratings are your thing, this film got a “95% fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. So there’s that.

“Cropsey” (2009) REVIEW

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This entry may be a bit controversial since it’s a documentary, but since it deals with urban legends and the boogeyman, I thought I’d include it. Plus, for a documentary, it’s utterly terrifying — I mean, what if an urban legends were real?

The filmmakers start out by detailing a myth of their youth: “Cropsey”, a boogeyman type who hunted and killed the children of Staten Island. This eventually turns into the filmmakers exploring several missing children cases from their neighborhood when they were younger. What they discover is that the urban legends of Cropsey turn out to be completely true.

I forget how I stumbled across this, but it came out in 2009 and I watched it just last year. Bottom line is it’s incredible, I’m so glad I watched it. I love documentaries and true crime as it is, but it plays to my horror fanatic side as well. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen a documentary like this: it plays out just like a horror movie. Like a real life Candyman.

After you watch a scary film, when the lights come up and the credits start to roll, you can take a breath and say it was just a movie. But if you want to watch something that you cannot dispute and won’t be able to shake, watch Cropsey.

“The Burning” (1981) REVIEW

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The Burning was released shortly after Friday the 13th and has often been called a ‘rip-off’, but that isn’t the case — despite several glaring similarities.

Yes, both are set at a summer camp (Burning in New York, Friday in New Jersey); the antagonist in both films is a lumbering, disfigured unstoppable monster; and, oddly enough, Tom Savini did the make-up for both films (to GREAT effect, I might add). But despite the similarities, The Burning is actually quite a refreshing watch after seeing the Friday canon about a hundred times over.

The film sees a hapless janitor (named Cropsy) fall victim to a prank gone awry, wherein he is severely burned and disfigured. However, he survives — and after laying low for awhile — decides to exact his revenge on some kids at the same camp. The weapon he chooses to maim the kiddies — pruning shears — is particularly brutal.

This film is notable in the fact that it stars future names like Holly Hunter, Jason Alexander, and Fisher Stevens. Not only that, but it was written by Harvey Weinstein (yes, that Weinstein) and produced by his brother Bob. In fact, it was the first movie produced by their company, Miramax. It was also produced by a very young, pre-Paramount CEO Brad Grey.

If you like it when slashers attack kids at camp, but need a break from ol’ Jason, give Cropsy a try.

Horrorstuffs & humor / don't tell yer granny

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