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Alma, by Rodrigo Blaas

Alma, by Rodrigo Blaas

Happy Halloween! Or, rather, Happy Morning-After-Halloween! There’s nothing better to cure a candy hangover than cartoons. In honor of this indulgent holiday, here’s something of an indulgent (if brisk) extravaganza of horror cartoon history.

Animation brings a unique skill set to horror and suspense. On the one hand, the difference in the representation of physical space dramatically changes the ability to produce jump scares. It’s not that it’s impossible to put instant shrieks into cartoons, but the impact is different. The fear in animation is often less visceral, more slow-burning. Animators can create self-contained stylistic universes with very specific moods, and terrifying ones at that. A great scary cartoon can sink into your soul, keeping you up at night with memories of something that will never quite fit into the waking world. They’re masterpieces of suggestion and imagination, showing that an image need not be possible in the live action world to scare us to the core.

Here are the ten creepiest animated shorts of all time (that you can watch online right now).

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Argento Deep Red

Anchor Bay Entertainment

Not only is this week the 10th anniversary of the release of Saw, but the movie is also back in theaters as of today in commemoration of the occasion. Conceived by James Wan and Leigh Whannell, who met in film school as students at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and directed by Wan, this original installment of what would become a seven-movie franchise is also one of the most influential movies — not just horror movies — of the past decade. Like most seminal movies of the past few decades, though, it’s also a highly influenced movie. To discuss the inception of an idea like Saw is to discuss earlier movies that inspired Wan and Whannell.

In honor of both the anniversary and the re-release, I’ve compiled the latest Movies to See… list as a retroactive primer for fans of Saw, or just for anyone who has or does see the original and wants some great precursors to check out afterward. Not all are horror movies, but the ones that aren’t technically of the same genre are relevant for their darker elements. Some are directly acknowledged as being actual influences and inspirations for Saw while others are just obvious predecessors in some way or another. Only one of this week’s picks, however, is included primarily for being an earlier movie starring one of the members of the cast.

If by chance you haven’t seen Saw yet and have been able to go 10 years without it being spoiled for you, be warned that some of the entries below could ruin the ending. Just go see it on the big screen this weekend and come back after. Or skip it altogether and spend your weekend with these 12½ movies (there’s a bonus this week) instead.

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"Hail Hydra." (HBO)

“Hail Hydra.” (HBO)

It’s October, and we’re a little more than six months past the Season Four premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones, and therefore less than half a year away from the Season Five premiere. We just have to make it through Winter. Which is coming, the Stark meteorologists have assured us.

October is also the month terminated by the holiday of Halloween, with all the attendant ghosts stories, zombie hordes hunting brains (or candy – one of those), and the appearance of other undead creatures too ornery to quietly stay dead. A fine time to talk about Game of Thrones. And resurrection.

Heads up, I’ll be talking Season Three details, so if you’re behind, Spoiler alert.

Game of Thrones is a fantasy, but in general magic isn’t heavily emphasized. Sure, we’ve seen a magical assassination and some Penn and Tellerstyle shenanigans from the Warlocks of Qarth, but usually swords are more reliable than spells.

That is, until Season Three, when the Hound’s sword only mostly killed Beric Dondarrion, who came back to life as he had six times before. Resurrected by badass priest Thoros of Myr.

Critics were quick to complain that if resurrection in Game of Thrones is possible, then the dramatic stakes are lost. Death, where is thy sting? and all that. This was particularly relevant for a show that two seasons before had highlighted the deadly serious stakes when Ned Stark, the literal poster boy for the series, had his life cut short.

But is the example of Beric Dondarrion’s resurrection really a negative game-changer for the story’s dramatic stakes? Game of Thrones wouldn’t be the first example of a fantasy epic that included a character’s death and return.

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Candy Short Film

The Current/Daniel Salan

We’re teaming with The Current for the next two months to deliver 10 short films from 10 different directors, focused on social trends explored through cinema.

The fifth short filmCandy, bounces between images of a woman walking through crowded streets and explaining her sexuality while seated on a stool that definitely wasn’t designed for her. As she strolls, she appears to relish the attention, but as she describes a personal evolution, it seems more likely that she holds her head up high because she knows a secret to life. What is true power? What is true self-esteem? How we do we see members of the opposite sex? Here’s one intriguing viewpoint.

“Passion, curiosity and thirst for knowledge have defined my work and career; I am always willing to learn, and embrace new ideas and perspectives,” says director Daniel Salan. “I currently work part time as an Art Director / Graphic designer, and additionally run my own little studio where work with film and visual communication, both professionally and with my own personal projects.

“I have been working with film in different forms, though music videos have dominated my line of work; it is a format I find extremely fun and challenging. Currently, however, I am moving in a new direction, and scratching the surface of the drama genre.

“Through the main character Candy, who is a determined and strong sex positive feminist woman, I want show the fine line between sexuality and integrity of a woman. Also to raise questions about gender equality, objectification, dehumanisation and how sexuality affects us all in society.

“Growing up with a single mother and a sister I’ve managed to see the struggle of a woman in a tough society making me recognize women as equal, fellow human beings. I think it is an interesting perspective that sex positive feminist women present and it is to explore how we men view women in society.”

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Pumpkinhead

United Artists

Ashe never got to see a ton of modern classics from his youth, so we’re making him watch them all as a nostalgia-less adult. Check out the inaugural article for more info.

It’s Halloween! That means only one more Halloween movie for this year. Of course, I like horror so much I’ll probably watch more before too long. I may wait until after the holidays, at least. Maybe. Hopefully. Silent Night, Deadly Night and Black Christmas both sound pretty good for December, though…

Anyway, this week I watched Pumpkinheadone of only two films actually directed by the legendary Stan Winston. (The other, A Gnome Named Gnorm, was a children’s film that’s largely forgotten, and that looks to be for the best.) The same Winston who created, like, all the best movie creatures, from the T-800 to the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, made his own monster movie. What could go wrong?

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Wonder Woman

DC

We may not have entered the golden age of superheroines just yet — is this the Bronze Age? Iron? Cubic Zirconia? — but things are certainly looking much brighter than they ever have before. Earlier this week, Marvel announced its standalone Captain Marvel film (hurray, Carol Danvers!) and now word is eking out about what we can expect to see from DC’s own head superheroine, Wonder Woman.

We already know more about Wonder Woman (Diana Prince if you’re into concealing identities) and her role in the DC universe than we know about Captain Marvel and the respective MCU, including who will play her (Gal Gadot) and when she’ll first appear (she’s the third lead in Batman v Superman: The Justice is Coming), but that still leaves a lot to learn, including what we can expect from her planned solo film, arriving after Batman and Superman presumably bash each other’s heads in while WW sighs dismissively and then does something cool over on the side.

And yet! Over at Bleeding Cool, the outlet reports a bevy of information about not just the first Wonder Woman feature, but subsequent follow-ups. It’s a franchise! It’s into time-jumping! It’s history-y! It’s, well, it’s kind of brilliant.

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Heather Langenkamp in A Nightmare On Elm Street

New Line Cinema Entertainment

I remember reading an article in the 1980s about writer/director Wes Craven’s inspiration for Freddy Krueger, who visits his victims dreams and kills them while they’re asleep. Craven has since talked about this inspiration often, and it involves a news story he stumbled across about a Cambodian refugee boy from the Killing Fields who was plagued with nightmares. One night, his parents heard him screaming. He had died in his sleep.

This isn’t the only time that Craven has made films inspired by real-life events. His 1988 Haitian zombie flick The Serpent and the Rainbow was a fictionalized story of antrhopologist Wade Davis who studied drugs allegedly used to induce zombification for slavery. Because Craven had two well-known films in the 80s based on real-life accounts, this led to a minor urban legend that there’s real truth to someone dying in real life if they die in their dreams.

As anyone who occasionally suffers from nightmares might tell you, this is a terrifying concept, so it got me thinking: if you die in a dream, would you really die in real life?

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Scream Factory

Scream Factory

The long-fabled director’s cut of Clive Barker‘s Nightbreed finally saw release this past week via Scream Factory’s beautiful new Blu-ray, and those of us who’ve been eagerly awaiting it since 1990 have one person to thank for it. That one person is Barker, obviously, as he not only wrote the short novel “Cabal” but also adapted it into a flawed but fun film filled with untapped promise.

There are others beyond Barker, though, who deserve our gratitude as well. I’m talking about the fans. In the two plus decades since Nightbreed‘s release, rumors of additional footage fueled our imagination, and the more optimistic among you — because no, I did not believe this day would ever come — kept the hope alive online and at genre conventions. As more and more of that footage was rediscovered, and as “the Cabal Cut” made its way around the country, the clamor for a properly restored, director approved cut of the film grew.

But after Barker and the fans? There are people behind the scenes who had their hands in this endeavor from the very beginning, people whose efforts and own appreciation of the world Barker created helped lead to this release — people like Mark Miller (Vice President of Seraphim) and Michael Plumides (Nightbreed: Director’s Cut producer).

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Earth Dies Screaming

Twentieth Century Fox

Zero more days ’til Halloween, my friends. That means we’ll all soon be dressing up in pop culturally aware costumes, eating candy we’re supposed to be giving to children and gorging ourselves on fright night features.

To mark the occasion, special guest host Eric D. Snider submits himself to a fiendish quiz about horror movies and the Psychorama technique after we share your responses to last week’s question.

Plus, we have a candid conversation with R-rated producer Adi Shankar who continues playing by his own rules with the release of a twisted, Saturday Morning Cartoon From Hell take on Judge Dredd.

You should follow Eric (@ericdsnider), Adi Shankar (@adishankarbrand), the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on Twitter for more on a daily basis.

Please review us on iTunes

Download Episode #75 

Or subscribe Through iTunes

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A24

A24

Alex Garland is an excellent writer. The screenwriter behind Never Let Me Go28 Days LaterSunshine and Dredd has tremendous range, and the fact that he can go from breaking your heart with a tragic Kazuo Ishiguro adaptation to writing a ridiculously good action movie shows he has discovered few limits so far. Some may argue he has a problem landing third acts, but those final 30 minutes of Sunshine are completely built up to and valid. Seriously.

Garland tackles high-concepts with real humanity, and his characters are generally as fascinating as his big ideas. He may strike that balance once again with his directorial debut, Ex Machina. The sci-fi film stars Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis)Domhnall Gleeson (In Time) and Alicia Vikander (Anna Karenina). Gleeson plays Caleb, a coder who wins a contest to spend time with a private CEO, Nathan (Isaac), and his A.I. creation. When Caleb arrives at Nathan’s home he’s awe-struck by what he finds… but that sense of wonder soon turns to horror.

Checkout the trailer released by A24 to see why.

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Poltergeist Poster Image

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

I’ve never been shy about my disinclination for horror, which is possibly my least favorite movie genre if I had to pick one. It’s not that I hate all horror films, but very generally they don’t ever immediately appeal to me. I find that I don’t scare easily, I don’t like to look at a lot of gore and I don’t have much interest in the psychology of fictional killers or the suffering of fictional victims. Most horror movies I see bore me, even those I might appreciate as being more than just a conventional series of deaths or hauntings or other frights.

I often rationalize my disfavor as being the effect of watching a ton of horror movies at a very young age and becoming immune to their tricks and subtext. That might not be the truth, but I do remember having a dream around age 6 or 7 in which I was basically on a set visit to a horror film production, where I saw all the suicidal people who’d volunteered to play victims, because in that world the actors in horror films are literally killed. That makes me sound more messed up as a kid than I was, when really I think it was just my imagination reminding me that the actuality of horror movies is all just pretend. I’m sure my overthinking of the genre even then kept me from enjoying it.

Anyway, whatever the reasons for my being a “horror hater” (nowadays my being a documentary fan likely also keeps me more scared of real horrors out there), I thought I’d share some titles that I do in fact like a lot. I don’t think they’re the best, just my favorites. Logically due to my age, a majority of horror movies I love are 1980s releases, but I’ve excluded most of them for being mainly nostalgic choices (I mention some below in relation to my picks). Hopefully this list can spawn a discussion directed at me regarding movies I should give a try or retry, especially as based on any preferences you notice.

But just to make note of some classic titles you’ll think I’m wrong for not favoring: I admit liking much of The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby, Night of the Living Dead and Don’t Look Now, I’ve never cared much for Halloween and I don’t like The Exorcist (or any religious themed horror) at all. 

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FRANKENHOOKER commentary

Genre comedies remain a tough combination to pull off, but when they work the results can include all kinds of ridiculous and messy fun. One under-appreciated gem is Frank Henenlotter‘s 1990 romp, Frankenhooker. As is probably evident in the title the movie is a tongue in cheek riff on Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein following a young scientist’s efforts to fix his girlfriend after she’s killed in a tragic lawnmower accident.

It’s a top to bottom comedy that tells its story with a great sense of humor and liberal nudity — and without a single drop of blood. So naturally it was unable to secure an ‘R’ rating from the MPAA and had to enter the marketplace unrated. Over the years it’s gained somewhat of a well-deserved cult following, and when the UK’s Arrow Video put together a cleaned-up Blu-ray of the film they also produced a new commentary track for the release. It’s almost as funny as the movie itself.

Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for Frank Henenlotter’s Frankenhooker.

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Pee-wee Herman

Warner Bros.

Rumors of a third Pee-wee Herman movie — a trilogy-completer! — have persisted for years, but now it seems as if we might be mere days away from getting an announcement of the official variety. Pee-wee himself (Paul Reubens, if you’re feeling formal) hit The Tonight Show last night where, with a minimum of goading, he fessed up to host Jimmy Fallon that, yes, there’s a new Pee-wee movie (officially) in the works, and yes, he and producer Judd Apatow definitely have a director on board. Well, who is it, you little be-bow-tied man? Tell us!

Reubens intimated that we could expect to hear more formal stuff about the project within a week or so, but let’s try to crack this one ourselves right now. Who is going to direct this new Pee-wee feature? We’ve got some ideas.

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published: 10.30.2014
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published: 10.29.2014
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published: 10.27.2014
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published: 10.24.2014
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