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Updated October 13th, 2013

  1. Possession, The (2012)- A spoiled little girl gets her dad to buy her an old box at a yard sale. What we know, but they don’t, is the box can kick the crap out of people, as it did the old lady who owned it before. Anyway, the little girl gets the box open and a demon gets out… wait, wasn’t the demon out when it was kicking that old lady’s ass? Anyway she becomes possessed, does bad things, and, instead of the Catholics getting the credit (or blame) this time it’s the Jews as it is a possessed Jewish box and a rabbi comes in to (maybe) save the day. Tried and true plot with a little twist, well actually, making it a rabbi instead of a priest probably doesn’t actually count as a twist so never mind. Bottom line, you could do worse. No it’s not very original and in fact downright goofy at times, but the acting isn’t bad and the directing and effects pan out pretty well. The whole demon thing just makes no sense to me anymore; demons have been making really bad career moves for centuries. C+

  2. Event Horizon (1997)- This is one of those movies that tend to inspire either love or hate, not much in between, and that’s when I generally fall ‘in-between’. Here we have an experimental space ship, the Event Horizon, which was lost on her maiden voyage; a salvage crew of crazy misfits (who, for the most part, probably wouldn’t actually be qualified for the job) are sent, along with the Event Horizon’s designer, to check the ship out. It turns out the Event Horizon had a very special engine that allowed it to traverse worm holes, so what went wrong? One part Alien (or Vampire Planet) in that a rescue ship is sent to recover a lost ship, one part Solaris in that the people who board the ‘lost’ ship begin to hallucinate and can’t discern reality from hallucination, one part Hellraiser in the ‘there are things man isn’t meant to know’ moral, and one part The Shining as people are isolated in a very negative place that is causing them to lose their minds (oh and maybe a small part of The Black Hole too). So does it work? Well opinions range from a hardy ‘Hell yes’ to a stern ‘no way’, but for me, B material. It’s not overly original but it is pretty well executed.

  3. Norliss Tapes, The (1973)- A Made-for-TV Dan Curtis production?! Count me in! This was a little too early for me to remember as a kid, which is probably why I hated it! I imagine had I seen it when I was young seeing it again now would invoke some nostalgic love, having not seen it before all it invoked was laughs. A man is hired to write a book on the supernatural, he’s a skeptic so he’s the perfect man for the job, but he disappears before he gets anything turned in. His lawyer then finds the tapes he was dictating for the book, as he listens to the tapes the stories unfold. This first (and last) story is about a vampire (sigh). This was supposed to be a series, which would’ve run out of plots pretty quickly I imagine, and would’ve been basically the same as, but nowhere as good as, Kolchak/The Night Stalker anyway. If you like’em really silly check it out, A on the craptacular scale.

  4. Strigio (2009)- A vampire film made and set in Romania, Strigio takes the ‘quirky village with a secret’ twist a step further. A medical student returns to his small village in Romania only to find the locals may have in fact murdered an old man. Was there a reason? Is he dead? Is he ‘undead’? Twists and turns and campy humor ensue. The good: Well acted and directed, great plot ideas, well executed comedy; the bad: too much talk and too long. A little judicious editing and I’m digging this one, but as is I’m sorry but I have to put it in the C camp. Lots of folks dig this one but I just couldn’t stay focused, blame my lack of attention if you must but a C is where I’m at.

  5. Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)- OK, I admit, maybe I graded the first 3 in the franchise too high, but I really do like the idea and if you allow yourself to get into what is happening and suspend some belief they do work. But can it work a fourth time? I’ll cut to the chase. No. Part 4 picks up where part 2 left off (part 3 was a prequel) with Katie moving into a neighborhood with her kidnapped nephew (or is it?). The nephew has to spend some time with the family across the street and the demon follows him, or possesses him, or something or other. What you really get is Part 1 (young couple realizing something is wrong) mixed with Part 2 (more or less oblivious parents), all wrapped up in a predictable ‘more of the same’ package with basically the same ending as the other 3. (Before you say ‘2 and 3 were more of the same’ I say at least they expanded the plot, this doesn’t at all). F

  6. Raven, The (2012)- Someone is using Edgar Allan Poe’s stories as inspiration for committing murders, could it be Poe himself? Poe joins with a detective to find out who the killer is. Yeah it’s an old plot, a murderer using fiction to base his real murders on, the twist this time is it’s Poe’s stories and it’s set in Poe’s time. I’m a huge Poe fan so did this work? I don’t know; another tough one to grade to be honest. It’s really not so much a horror flick as a mystery, some of the set pieces, like the pendulum, are very well done, the acting is pretty well done, it’s paced pretty well, but really in the end it’s just kind of goofy. I didn’t hate it, didn’t love it so I’ll give it a C+.

  7. State of Emergency (2011)- An explosion at a chemical plant causes many residents of a suburb to become stumbling cannibalistic killers (not zombies per se but in the same ballpark). The story follows a few survivors as they hide out in a warehouse and scavenge for food, water, and medicine. It’s an interesting look at human interaction during a crisis with the standard themes of who to trust, will help be coming, what’s a necessary risk, etc. There’s not a lot of action and if you want something heavy on the zombie gore you’ll be disappointed. Over-all not a bad flick considering what is obviously a low budget, I’ll give it a B-.

  8. Haunting at Silver Falls, A (2013)- Jordan is now an orphan and has to move to Silver Falls to live with her aunt and uncle. She wants to fit in, and gets into some trouble when trying, but the upside, she found a cool ring in the woods. But it’s a haunted ring. We know this pretty quickly as cliché ghost sequences play out; really, if you’re a budding director please find some new ways to do the whole ghost bit. Anyway, the ring apparently belonged to one of two twin girls who were killed and who are angry because the wrong killer has been found guilty and is about to be executed for their deaths, or is he the wrong killer? But everyone just thinks poor Jordan is nuts (must be something in the water in this town), but if the killer is still on the loose… Predictable but not terrible entry in the trendy ghost flicks popping up everywhere. Nothing really new here, the plot twist was pretty good idea over-all and despite the unoriginality I didn’t hate this one. C+

  9. Q (1982)- Seems like there have been some strange (or stranger than usual) deaths in New York City. A window washer mysteriously decapitated, body parts falling from the sky, and ritual deaths as well. Could they be tied together? It turns out someone has brought the Aztec god Quetzlcoatl back to life and she’s hungry! Only one cop, the super cool David Carradine cop, has it all figured out and with the help of a two-bit criminal they may be able to defeat the beast. Campy as hell and meant to be that way this one is pretty fun, as long as you go into it knowing nobody is taking this too seriously, and neither should you. Yeah, some scenes drag and some more monster action would have been better (but I’m guessing the FX budget wasn’t going to allow that) so perfect it’s not but if you want to some goofy 80s giant monster fun then check this out. B+

  10. Solaris (1972)- Another artsy entry from Russian great Tarkovsky. There’s a space station orbiting a nearby planet and it seems anyone who goes there winds up dead or insane. A psychologist is sent to get to the bottom of it all but as soon as he arrives he is met with both stonewalling station residents and his own persistent hallucinations. Determined to get to the bottom of it all those left at the station work towards an answer. Let me just say this ain’t for everybody. Very slow moving and very disjointed; to be honest there is a lot of moping around and talking (or reading since it’s in Russian). Still, everything about this just feels disturbing and, if you get that far, can make you question reality. If you like the artsier approach I recommend this one, if you aren’t into it stay very far away! A-

  11. Devil Inside, The (2012)- I’ve mentioned this before but convincing exorcist movies are hard to pull off. Seeing grown men yell things like ‘Be gone demon!’ at supposed possessed people is often way funnier than scary; having said that my favorite horror movie is the ‘homer’ The Exorcist so when it works it works. Does it work here? This is a POV documentary about a young woman trying to find out what happened to her mother. She knows her mother murdered 3 people and was sent to an insane asylum. What she more recently found out was the murder took place during an attempted exorcism, on her mother, and her mother was shortly thereafter sent to an asylum in Rome. Obviously she wants to get to the bottom of it all so she heads to Rome with a filmmaker to find the truth. She is befriended by two priests who are working as exorcists, often without church recognition, which jeopardizes their careers as priests. OK, the bottom line: The exorcism scenes are pretty good. Effects are done well enough to look real, without being overdone CGI. There are some genuine tense parts and a few good scares. But the surrounding plot involving the priests is just weak and there are plot holes galore. I am willing to suspend belief in a movie about exorcisms if everything else is believable and that is where this failed miserably. There have been a lot of complaints about the ending too, but I didn’t think it was all that bad really. Anyway, I’ll give it a C+, a passing grade on the exorcism pieces and the main plot line, but a failing grade on the subplots and the route taken to get there.

  12. Vanishing, The (1988)- Remade in the US with, of course, a softer ending this original plays up the obsession angles a little better. A young couple on vacation stop at a convenient store, the woman is abducted and the man spends the next several years obsessing and looking for his missing girlfriend, at the expense of his current life. The man who abducted the girl eventually contacts the boyfriend and agrees to meet him, but only if he agrees to go through exactly what his girlfriend went through. This is a pretty dark flick about obsession and the 'unhinged' alter-ego that can be hiding just below the surface of an otherwise seemingly 'normal' person, very well done. A

  13. Contagion (2011)- “Horror?” you ask. “Yes” I say, maybe the worst kind. A pretty well done, more or less fact based account of what a truly devastating lethal virus epidemic might look like. A woman returning from a business trip to Hong Kong unwittingly spreads a swine-flu type of virus across the US. Her immune husband is looking for answers as the CDC is racing for an inoculation. Early scenes of everything people touch throughout the day will make you squirm a little even if you're only slightly germophobic! Well-acted, directed, and thought provoking; I'd like to see a zombie flick done with this much detail. A

  14. Ninth Configuration, The (1980)- William Peter Blatty actually considered this to be the sequel to 'The Exorcist'. It follows, more or less, the astronaut who Regan told “You're going to die up there” to. Soon after that meeting he is put in an insane asylum with a very colorful group of characters. This is what might be called a 'dialogue driven' movie. If you want action and pea soup spewing you're going to be disappointed. This is a cerebral flick that attempts to explore the nature of good and evil. It succeeds for the most part I think with the right measure of seriousness and camp mixed in. I'll give it a strong B+.

  15. Yokai Monsters Volume 1: Spook Warfare (1968)- An ancient European vampire is released from his prison and his spirit goes to Japan and possesses a wealthy landowner and begins collecting blood. Ancient Japanese folk 'monsters' then unite to rid the region of the menace. This one is weirder than it even seems from the description! Now if you don't like (VERY) quirky Japanese monster movies, complete with bad costumes, goofy dialogue, and puppets, then just stay far away from this. But if you appreciate such things and like your horror (using the term very loosely again) based on old folk legends I recommend this. I liked it quite a bit and give it an A-, too quirky at times maybe, but fun as hell.

  16. Paranorman (2012)- An animated twist on the 'The Sixth Sense'. A young boy sees ghosts everywhere, and everyone just things he's weird. He's teased and picked on for being so 'weird', and, as it turns out, his uncle has the same 'gift' (or maybe his uncle is just nuts too). It might just be that his family is destined to save the town from a centuries old curse though. I admit, I'm kind of a sucker for these flicks so I liked it. It doesn't measure up to say 'A Nightmare Before Christmas' or 'Corpse Bride' but gets pretty close and is safe for the kids. B+

  17. Awakening, The (2011)- A well-paced ghost story centering on an author who's made a career out of debunking charlatans who are banking off of family members' grief post-WWI. She is asked to visit a boarding school as a ghost has recently been terrorizing the boys there and, naturally, things are not as easily debunked as she was hoping, and along comes a twist, and twist again as well. Very well played suspense movie using the gloomy post-WWI England as its back drop and its study of guilt and personal isolation as its fuel, this is really a ghost story in name only. You won't find a lot of true scares, but who needs them if the movie is good? A.

  18. Doomsday Book (2012)- Korean omnibus with a strange mixture of camp, horror, and depth. Story one, 'A Brave New World' centers on a man who eats tainted meat and soon becomes a zombie, the disease spreads and affects different people in different ways. All in all a unique take on the zombie sub-genre but a little too campy and over-the-top for me. It seemed they were going to for that almost Japanese 'craziness' and while they got close, they just fell a tad short for me C+. Story two 'The Heavenly Creature' focuses on a robot purchased by a Buddhist monastery to do some menial tasks. Over time the robot begins to show signs of enlightenment, when the company that makes the robots is contacted they want to immediately shut the robot off, as they are aware of the threat any robot who becomes too 'human' might be. This segment gets very heavy and may not be for everyone as it focuses much more on ideas of enlightenment, life, etc. These concepts have been visited a ton of times but are done very well here and in a unique Asian way. I liked this one A+. Story three follows a young girl who, after losing her father's eight-ball, orders one off of the Internet. Little does she know it is a huge eight-ball flying in from space that may devastate the earth like a huge meteor. Um, what? This is a very bizarre segment following the family as they prepare for the Apocalypse caused by the Internet order of a pool ball!?!? Despite the oddness this wasn't a bad segment, well done and I can appreciate oddness, I'll give it a B. This averages to about a B+, which frankly seems a tad too high on second thought but let's run with it.

  19. Frankenstein Theory, The (2013)- A good idea executed poorly. POV flick about a descendent of Frankenstein who happens to believe Mary Shelley’s story is in fact, well, fact. He puts together a documentary crew to go with him to the Great White North to find the man/monster. Faux suspense and plot developments that lead nowhere, sequences inserted to fill time, decisions people only make in horror movies, and then a goofy ending that doesn’t really do the original book justice wrap it up. D.

  20. Falling, The (1987)- Goofy 80s piece that can’t quite decide just how campy it wants to be. Three Americans are traveling across Spain when they stop in a village. Said village is near the spot where a satellite crashed, which in turn is causing residents to become some sort of melting zombie sort of things. Bad acting, poor effects, and the previously mentioned ‘is this horror or is this camp’ doom this one; sort of a really bad rip off of The Evil Dead. D-

  21. Dead Season (2012)- ZOMBIES! Tried and true plot about survivors of a zombie creating plague trying to find someplace safe. They find a way to trek to an island that just might be a safe haven, but, as is always the case, who is really the enemy here? Nothing original but the suspense as to who are the bad guys (zombies or survivors) works; I can’t praise this one, there’s just nothing overly great about it, but I also don’t find too much fault, considering budget etc. this one works pretty well. I’ll give it a B-.

  22. Pact, The (2012)- Haunted house flick with a twist. It starts off more or less like any other. A girl goes home for her mom’s funeral, even though she really hated her mom. When she arrives home her sister is missing and her mom’s house seems to have a ‘presence’. Some investigation, a weird psychic, and a police officer later we find what is truly haunting the house. Not overly original on the surface but really, this has a lot to offer and the twists prove to be pretty original and well executed. There are some plot holes, it’s not perfect, but the acting, directing, and plot all work well together. If you like the ‘returning to the scene of the crime’ sort of haunted house flicks check this one out. A-.

  23. Fields, The (2011)- Suspense thriller about a kid who has to stay with his grandparents while his parents go through a separation. His grandparents are colorful people from an even more colorful family (to say the least), but I’ll get back to that. The story is set in the early 70s as the Manson trial is making headlines and a group of hippies staying in the small town begin to make people wonder as bad things start to happen, especially at the farm the boy is staying at. A somewhat bizarre plot twist (well not really a ‘twist’) rolls around and we never really get to find out much more about the boy’s extremely weird cousins! Could’ve been cool; anyway this is an odd offering that is frankly kind of hard to grade. I guess the bottom line is I liked it for the most part but felt a little unsatisfied at the end. I’ll give it a B-.

  24. Hell (2011)- This is a German flick and ‘hell’ means ‘bright’ in German, keep that in mind. For some reason the sun begins to burn much hotter and brighter in the not too distant future, which in turn causes most sources of fresh water to evaporate and run out, kills most vegetation, throwing the food chain into chaos, and spells doom for most; a sort of post-apocalyptic Mad Max type of scenario but more believably, water is of real value, not gasoline. We meet some survivors who are trying to find a safe haven, maybe near the ocean, but naturally there are survivors who are brutal in their attempts to stay alive, and propagate the race. This movie plays out a lot like ‘The Road’ which I really liked, but is slightly less ‘brutal’. It’s an interesting plot that may not be overly original but is executed very well. My only compliant would be the ‘action movie’ escape sequences that, while necessary, feel over played. Regardless I give this one a strong A for its depiction of that hard to conjure ‘end times’ vibe.

  25. Beyond the Door (1974)- Blatant Italian ‘The Exorcist’ meets ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ ripoff. An interesting combination yes, but… Let’s just say if you like projectile pea soup vomit, plus VERY awkward and forced references to pea soup, then this one is for you, and only you! Anyway, Jessica is pregnant, even though she and her husband already have two kids they obviously have absolutely NO idea how to raise. Nevertheless as it turns out Jessica used to date a Satanist (who didn’t in the early 70s?) and in order for him to save his soul, well, for a little while, he has to, um, get Jessica possessed so that her new baby will be Satan. I think. Really I have no idea, either way, as mentioned, it’s basically an Exorcist/Rosemary’s Baby mashup, or maybe that should read ‘mishap’. Really some of the possessed scenes work pretty well, and the director knew that as he just keeps them going and going and going. That’s about all the good I can say, but if you love a good MST3K flick check this one out. B+ on the craptacular scale for the soundtrack alone!

be afraid, be very afraid