The polar vortices, repeatedly roaring down from the arctic, seem to be keeping us huddled under blankets on our sofas. Here at The Paranormalist, there’s been an uptick of hits on posts offering entertainment ideas for paranormal-type folks who can’t get outside to cryptid-hunt, UFO-watch, or graveyard-prowl.
Yesterday, I gave you the rundown on what’s happening on TV right now, and in coming weeks. Today, let me offer a few more suggestions.
WATCH A MOVIE:
The most popular post at the blog is: The 13 most haunting films, for ghost story lovers (and another 13+ worth watching.) I’m not surprised – it is a treasure trove of creepy ghost movies recommendations, thanks in large part to the fantastic comment thread, where folks have been chiming in with suggestions of their own.
If ghost stories aren’t the ideal movie entertainment for you, just pop over to the Courting Creepy section to find suggestions for scarier fare – films featuring writers or zombies. You can also shore up your knowledge of classic horror flicks or risk intensifying your cabin fever into full-blown insanity by exploring a selection of the best psychological horror films.
DO SOMETHING A BIT MORE ACTIVE:
If you’ve reached the point where you need to DO something other than sit passively on the couch, I’ve got a few options for you.
If you have access to a treadmill or indoor running track, check out Zombies, Run! a fitness app with a dark twist.
If all you’ve got is a cell phone (and a bored friend or two who also have cells,) look into the sci-fi techno-babble game Spaceteam.
If you want to have something to show for your isolation, review Halloween hobbies: monster models, knitting, cross stitch, paper cutting and more. Despite the Halloween-theme of the original post, there’s plenty of ideas there that can amuse a winter-trapped horror / paranormal fan.
Nearly every haunted house movie begins the same way – a middle-class family invests every penny they have in an old fixer-upper. There is a married couple, a child (or children,) a cat and/or a dog. There is often (though not always) something a little dysfunctional or unusual about the family. Communication is these families is usually spotty at best. The husband and wife don’t confide in each other. The parents ignore unusual behavior by the kids or the animals, and don’t give credence to anything odd the kids say. The family is full of hope. It’s a brand-new, high-stakes, fresh-start for everyone.
Then bad things start to happen.
Ogre and I just got back from seeing The Conjuring. It’s a great movie in many ways, destined to become a horror classic.
I could not help but ask myself the same question I always do when I see another haunted house movie:
- When, exactly, would I pack up my shit and get the hell out?
When you’ve see The Conjuring (and I recommend you do if you haven’t) PLEASE come here and tell me when YOU would flee. (Or, at the very least, seek out professional help.)
WARNING: If you click the following (READ THE REST OF THIS PAGE) link, you will see a detailed list of scary events that happen to the Perron family, leading up to the moment when they contact the Warrens.
Before the age of 16, I saw two – maybe three – films in a theater. At home, I watched movies when I could, but my choices were limited to the offerings of the available four networks. (ABC, CBS, NBC & PBS) I didn’t much care for the made-for-TV stuff that was popular (except for Columbo) so I had to content myself with the great old black and white flicks that played late at night.
If I lacked film experience, I made up for it by watching a lot of television – and much of what I liked was on PBS. I’d come home from school, make a snack, go to my dad’s room, turn on his small TV and do my homework while waiting for something good to come on. Sneak Previews was often the soundtrack that accompanied my math worksheets.
This was apparently recorded in 1982, a couple of years after my time in grade school. The clip captures my memories really well though … except I saw it on a b&w TV.
In high school I went on a few movie dates, of course, but I remember those outings now as an excuse to hold hands in the dark. That’s not to say I didn’t care about film when I was a teenager – it was the mid-80s, after all, about the same time that video stores sprouted up everywhere.
At first, I rented only horror shows – terrible dreck like I Spit on Your Grave and Last House on the Left – to watch with friends in someone’s basement rec room. Then I realized I could lay my hands on classics like Psycho and The Bride of Frankenstein and Rosemary’s Baby, in versions that were neither diced into segments to fit between commercial breaks nor sanitized into acceptably innocuous broadcast fodder. I sped through all the movies that I knew about. Eventually, I started to notice and understand that I had access to what felt like ALL THE FILMS, and I became overwhelmed. That’s when I hunted down Siskel & Ebert who, by then, were on At the Movies in syndication.
For the first time, I paid attention to what the familiar voices were actually saying. When the two critics disagreed, I usually sided with Siskel.
After my daughter was born, I spent more than a year mostly cuddled up with her in front of the TV. Two or three times a week, I’d put her in the stroller and walk downtown to return the movies I had, and rent five more. I carried a notebook filled with obscure references that had been made on At the Movies.
Within a few years my life enlarged. I had a license, a job, a new set of friends, and a preschooler. The VCR was busy playing stuff that would entertain my daughter. There was little time for grown-up movies, and no need for film critics.
It wasn’t until I started dating The Ogre that films really came back into my life. He took me to at least a movie a week. Mostly we saw whatever was popular, but he also introduced me to more challenging fare. We went to mega-plexes and art houses and drive-ins. He taught me to get there early in order to obtain the prime seats and to stay through the credits. I learned that his favorite critic was Roger Ebert, and realized I could live with that.
We married in 1991 and, thanks to him, there was soon enough time for me to start my studies of writing, the paranormal, and the horror genre. As I explored my interests, I again found myself needing guidance from all sorts of experts, including film critics. The internet made it possible for me to access all the info I wanted, but I wasn’t sure who I could trust. I turned to the familiar.
Roger Ebert: “We’re instinctively afraid of natural things (snakes, barking dogs, the dark) but have to be taught to fear walking into traffic or touching an electrical wire. Horror films that tap into our hard-wired instinctive fears probe a deeper place than movies with more sophisticated threats. A villain is only an actor, but a shark is more than a shark.” (Read the rest of Ebert’s review of The Blair Witch Project at RogerEbert.com.)
Reviews like those made me come around to the Ebert/Ogre way of thinking.
In 1995, our son came along. A shortage of both time and money forced us to become selective about what movies to watch. We started watching Siskel & Ebert together on Sunday mornings and planning our viewing based on what they said.
In 1999, we were saddened by the death of Gene Siskel. But we stuck with Roger in the subsequent incarnations of the show … all the way through Ebert Presents: At The Movies, in which Ebert contributed only a review voiced by someone else in a brief segment called “Roger’s Office”.
When he no longer appeared on television, we started following him on twitter and at his blog.
On April 2nd – just two days before he died – Roger Ebert wrote his last blog post. He closed with this: “So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies.”
Yes he will.
Movies matter in this household. So does Roger Ebert. I know I will continue to reference his body of work for years to come – both for the content and for the style of his writing. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to learn how to think about movies from one of the greats.
As I create these Courting Creepy lists, I repeatedly discover gaps in my viewed-films list. My knowledge of zombie movies, for example, was so thin that I had to ask a guest blogger to construct a 13 crucial zombie films list for me. Each time I write a supposedly definitive list, I receive suggestions from readers for additions and replacements. Though I stand by my choices, I must also admit that I haven’t seen everything and, consequently, I could be missing a great film. I’ve been trying to keep the list of must-see movies in my head, and/or on random scraps of paper. It just occurred to me, that this is a better way to keep track. Duh.
[Last updated July 21st, 2014.]
As with all the lists, feel free (even compelled) to make suggestions and recommendations!
13 creepy movies I most want to see next:
I. Byzantium (2012) – DVD – vampires
II. Silent House (2011) – Netflix – ghosts
III. Absence (2013) – Netflix – recommended by Monster Men – aliens
IV. The Conspiracy (2012) – Netflix – secret society
V. House of Voices (2004) – Netflix – ghosts
VI. Munger Road (2011) – Netflix – ?
VII. A Haunting at Silver Falls (2013) – Netflix – ghosts
VIII. Stoker (2013) – DVD – strange
IX. Grave Encounters (2011) – Netflix – ghosts
X. The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh (2012) – Netflix – recommended by Scholar – ghosts
XI. Don’t Look Now (1973) – Netflix – ghosts? psychics?
XII. Case 39 (2009) – DVD – strange
XIII. One Missed Call (2003 Japanese version) – DVD – recommended by Craft Fear – time-slip? ghosts?
Films to be moved up, as needed:
Recommendations by The Horror Online follow:
Paranormal Activity (2007) with DIRECTORS COMMENTARY – ghosts
Alone with Her (2006) – DVD – stalker
The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007) – saved on Netflix – serial killer
Home Movie (2008) – DVD – looks gruesome maybe? – strange
The Last Exorcism (2010) – DVD – demons
Troll Hunter (2010) – Netflix – monster
The Woman Who Came Back (1945) – DVD – ghosts?
Warlock (1989) – DVD – witches
The Witches (1990) – DVD – children, witches
To The Devil A Daughter (1976) – saved on Netflix – demons, writers
Witchfinder General (1968) – DVD – witches
The Devil Rides Out (1968) – saved on Netflix – witches
The City of the Dead (Horror Hotel) (1960) – saved on Netflix – witches
La Maschera Del Demonio aka Black Sunday (1960) – Netflix – witches
Communion (1989) – DVD – aliens
Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1973) – DVD – recommended by Hunter Shea – zombies
The Screaming Skull (1958) – DVD, very long wait – recommended by Parlor of Horror – psycho?
The New Daughter (2009) – DVD – recommended by Jimmy Smith – possession?
The Deaths of Ian Stone (2007) – DVD – recommended by parlorofhorror – time-slip? psycho?
The Echo (2008) – DVD – recommended by Scholar – ghosts?
The Bay (2012) – Netflix – recommended by Monster Men – monsters?
God Told Me (1976) – DVD – recommended by Wed’s Child – psycho? demons?
Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971) – DVD – classic, recommended by Daryll – ghosts
The Woman in Black (1989) – TV movie, also recommended by Daryll – ghosts
Prince Of Darkness (1987) – DVD – recommended by Hunter Shea – demons?
Candyman (1992) – Netflix – urban legend
The Howling (1981) – DVD – classic, think I’ve seen it, don’t remember well, werewolves
A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) – DVD – recommended by pilgrim52 – ghosts
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) -DVD – ?
The Exorcist III (1990) – DVD – Saw it at the drive-in, needs a rewatch – demons
The Skull (1965) – DVD – recommended by Parlor of Horror – strange, possession
The Stone Tape (1972) – recommended by Mark Hill (obscure made for British TV – hard to find?) – ghosts
Peeping Tom (1959) – DVD – rough going, I’ve heard (caught part of it on TV) – psycho? serial killer?
Obsession (1976) – saved on Netflix – stalker
The Spiral Staircase (1946) – DVD – stalker
Final Destination (2000) – DVD – psychic? time-slip?
Wolfen (1981) – DVD – werewolves
The Company of Wolves (1984) – DVD – werewolves
The Desperate Hours (1955) – saved on Netflix – psycho? stalker?
They Live (1988) – DVD – aliens
A Clockwork Orange (1971) – DVD – strange, psycho
Darkness (2002) – DVD – ghosts
Shutter (2004) – DVD – ghosts
Al Final del Espectro aka At the End of the Spectra (2006) – psycho
Cronos (1993) – DVD – strange, time-slip?
We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) – DVD – read an intriguing review at IPC – strange
Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965) – tarot stories
The Eclipse (2009) – DVD – Irish – ghosts
The Hearse (1980) – saved on Netflix – ghosts?
The Awakening (1980) – Charlton Heston! – ghosts
The Girl in the Swing (1988) – saved on Netflix – ghosts
Deadly Presence (2012) – saved on Netflix – ghosts
Haunter (2013) – Netflix -ghosts
6 Souls (2010) – Netflix – psycho, ghosts
Apartment 1303 (2012) – Netflix – ghosts
The Quiet Ones (2014) – saved on Netflix -ghosts
Horns (2014) – saved on Netflix – strange
The Battery (2012) – zombies & BASEBALL 🙂
The ones I’ve bagged:
Under the Skin (2013)
We Are What We Are (2013)
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
House at the End of the Street (2012)
The Virgin Suicides (1999)
The Innkeepers (2011)
Dark Skies (2013)
Europa Report (2013)
Labor Day (2013) (not horror but certain creepy & sexy elements)
Gravity (2013) (sci-fi)
The Haunting of Julia (1977)
The Awakening (2011) – recommended by Tim Prasil
Twixt (2011) – writer list candidate
The Gift (2000)
Silver Bullet (1985)
The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane (1976)
Drive Angry (2011)
The Conjuring (2013)
AUGUST 2013 ^
The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
Lady in White (1988)
Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
The Descent (2005)
BETWEEN DEC 2012 & JULY 2013 ^
The Pact (2012)
The Sentinel (1977)
DECEMBER 2012 ^
Kill Baby, Kill [Operazione paura] (Italy, 1966)
Burnt Offerings (1986)
The Skeleton Key (2005)
Ju-on: The Grudge (2002)
NOVEMBER 2012 ^
The Mist (2007)
The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
Wake Wood (2011)
OCTOBER 2012 ^
I’m about to go play some Endless Ocean, for the first time in at least a year, because I actually have three days off work, before I start my new work schedule, now that my training at the new hotel is complete, but I wanted to pop in to recommend this movie. (Pant, pant.)
Okay. Maybe I should slow down and back up a bit. (Though, now that I think about it, that pretty much covers the latest developments in my life.)
I admit, I’m a little frenzied right now, in a strange sort of way. I don’t seem to really know what to do with this unexpected mini-vacation. So far today I’ve watched a movie and caught up on my blog reading (again.) I expect to do a bunch of writing tomorrow and Friday. I’ve considered doing the deep cleaning that this apartment really needs (mostly hours of vacuuming, I fear) just so that I can start putting up my Halloween decorations. I want to cook, bake, read, luxuriate in hot baths, help my son study for his first college-level tests … oh, I want to do lots of things. As for the pending video game session? It’s just a way to convince myself that I can afford to waste a little time on something completely frivolous.
Before I do that, though, I have to rave about The Orphanage. (I don’t really do movie reviews in the classic sense. For a plot summary, etc. see the information at IMBD.) The Orphanage was produced by Guillermo del Toro, who directed Pan’s Labyrinth, (which was beautiful, but too sad for me.) The Orphanage is the horror movie I was hoping for (but didn’t fully experience) when I went to see The Woman in White. It’s subtle, creepy, atmospheric, and logical … it even has a satisfying ending.
The film is in Spanish, so I was dependent on the subtitles – which was a shame, because I suspect I missed some of the depth and richness in the lush cinematography. (I’ll be watching it again soon, so that I can pay more attention to the visuals.) Otherwise, I was pleased with the differences I noticed between it and the recent American horror films I’ve seen.
Immediately, I was struck by the very human loveliness of the lead actress, Belén Rueda. At one point in the movie she is asked how old she is. Her reply is 37. Amazingly, in the scene, she actually looks 37. Even more startling is the fact that she is allowed to grow almost haggard as the film progresses. I don’t mean that she starts to look sweaty, or that her clothes tatter, or that she looks mussed – I mean she looks like a woman who is spiraling into desperation. It was a refreshing change from the air-brushed perfection of most American actresses, especially in the horror genre, where everyone is either ancient and hideous, or 18.
This movie does not rely on special effects. There is some good makeup work, but it is not front and center. There is no gore. What we get, instead, is suspense and story. It feels like a real movie, which happens to be scary. This a great film to coax you into the spirit of the Halloween season.