HIDDEN HORROR FOR CHRISTMAS – Wind Chill

windchill_1Now another Cold “wintery” horror movie for your Christmas season horror fiends is a little “Chiller” from 2007 that went under the radar, in fact its hardly talked about nowadays and it starred the then unknown Emily Blunt. It was the character driven ghost story WIND CHILL

from IMDB : A couple of college students known only as the Girl and the Guy are traveling home to Delaware the day before Christmas Eve. They’re on a frozen road that the Guy is convinced is a scenic short-cut. In the middle of nowhere in below freezing conditions they are run off the road by a hit and runner. They soon realize they’re caught in a supernatural bubble where a crime from 1953 is doomed to repeat itself, year after year threatening new victims.

Now what took me by surprise with this movie is at first the film is slow and both “the Guy” and “the Girl” are actually a little unlikable but all of that changes once there car is stuck in the snow. From there on out it turns into a character driven, creepy, twilight zone esque survival story. Both characters end up being more likable then they started out to be and you actually care for them towards the end.

Now when the more supernatural aspects happen it is quite the creep fest. The frozen ghoulish looking ghosts (makeup FX courtesy of Todd Masters of Tales from the Crypt fame) are quite the shocker and when the Twilight Zone like aspects happen you begin to question if they are ever going to get away from the horror. But the most dangerous thing in this movie is not the ghosts but the cold. The cold is a constant danger to this characters and what ends up being the real villain of the movie.

Wind Chill is a good character driven haunted house movie that just happens to take place on a snowy road in the winter versus a house. It is a good little “Chiller” to include in your christmas horror movie watch list every season. It is a damn shame this one came and went. – James J. Coker

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HIDDEN HORROR – Dario Argento’s Phenomena

phenomena_poster_03Now for horror fans when it comes to Argento movies it is either love or hate, i for one im in the love category but then again i have a weakness for Italian horror cinema, and out of Argento’s “Golden Years” Phenomena is one that is generally overlooked by fans who pine over Argento’s “Suspiria” and “Deep Red”, which is a shame because not only does Phenomena showcase some damn good Argento tropes but also features both a very young Jennifer Connelly and Donald fucking Pleasence!

From IMDB: A young girl, with an amazing ability to communicate with insects, is transferred to an exclusive Swiss boarding school, where her unusual capability might help solve a string of murders.

Phenomena is a italian horror film filled with talent both in front of the camera and behind it. Jennifer Connolly though young (her Labyrinth days) does a bang up job as a misunderstood young woman with a gift and Donald Pleasence has a presence on screen as the humble Entomologist helping the detectives find the murdering. Also Dario Argento brings his A-Game here with great camera shots (as usual with Argento) fantastic music with switches back from a score by Claudio Simonetti and various rock bands, a moody and very windy atmosphere and some genuine shocks and uncomfortable moments with the kills and one scene involving a pit filled with maggots!

So if you have a compulsion to watch some Argento but want to give Suspiria and Deep Red a rest please give Phenomena a shot, its one of Argento’s unsung best – James J. Coker

HIDDEN HORROR FOR HALLOWEEN – Lord of Tears

02 lord-of-tears-posterSometimes a little indie horror film from another country can end up surprising me and practically blow my socks off from how effective it can be. I got a taste of that again this Halloween season with a little independent horror movie from Scotland of all places. A film so richly Gothic and haunting it will stay with for a while, A film that went completely under the radar last year even to horror fans, that film is LORD OF TEARS.

After the death of his mother, bookish school teacher James inherits his families estate in Baldurrock. Strangely enough, although she bequeathed it to him, she asks that he never go there. James hasn’t been to the house since he was a child, when events took place that his memory has since repressed. Hoping to make sense of his mother’s request, James moves into Baldurrock House there he meets the estate caretaker Eve, a beautiful american woman who is very kind and flirty with James but there is something just a little off about her also while at the house he begins to experience recurring nightmares of a man with a giant owl’s head and enormous talons. The owl speaks in esoteric riddles and rhyme – but is he trying to help James, or lead him to his destruction?

Now even before Owlman shows up in the film, “Lord of Tears” already packs on the haunting atmosphere and creepy visuals right from the beginning. Poor James starts having these nightmares featuring frantic creepy images and all that is before the Owlman shows up to haunt James even further. that at first dont make any sense but near the ending it all comes together. For james and the audience the line between what it real and what is a nightmare start to blur. We are not entirely sure for most of the film if there really is a Owlman haunting James or perhaps James is losing his mind from grief and repressed childhood memories. And then there is a Eve, a strange yet flirty woman who enters James life when he gets to the House and for some odd reason she is very kind and caring to James right from the get go. But the reason why is revealed near the end in a moment that even shocked me. Now dont expect any gore or nudity in this film because it does not rely on it. Instead Lord of Tears relies on a incredibly gothic and haunting atmosphere with the eerie fog shrouded Scottish landscape, the old scottish mansion which james resides in, the frantic, creepy and cryptic nightmares our poor character goes through along with the Mystery of the house and his parents that he keeps digging into to and finally the Owlman himself. A folk-lore-ish Creature then whenever he shows up the whole film and even when I was watching the Owlman seems to command attention, he is a foreboding presence throughout the film and lends to the thick atmosphere of dread from beginning to end.

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So this Halloween season if you want something much more Haunting and Gothic but want something different from the typical ghost. Do whatever you can to seek out Lord of Tears. It is a Gothic and incredibly haunting tour de force of melancholy, mystery and madness. – James J. Coker

12 SLAYS OF CHRISTMAS – 9TH SLAY – HIDDEN HORROR – Rare Exports

rare_exports_official_poster_enWhen people think of Christmas movies they almost always think of American ones, and that’s even true when it comes to Christmas horror movies. Foreign Christmas movies don’t seem to be on most people’s minds. There is however a Christmas horror movie from Finland that sadly flew under the radar upon release in 2010. That movie is none other than “Rare Exports” and it is a wonderfully fun, intriguing and dark Christmas movie with the feel of a Amblin Movie.

On Christmas Eve in Finland the real Santa Claus is unearthed in an archaeological dig. Soon after children start disappearing, which leads a boy and his father to capture Santa. With the help of fellow hunters they look to sell him back to the corporation that sponsored the dig. And then there are Santa’s elves, who are determined to free their leader.

The plot is nutty yet entirely intriguing, and believe me the film will have you hooked right from the get go. Not only is the story strong but it is also a fun, dark horror film that doesn’t rely on violence and sex. Actually it’s very much a coming of age tale and has a sense of adventure very similar to the Amblin films of the 80’s. If you have kids this is a great one to watch with them, just make sure they no longer believe in Santa before you show it to them.

If you want to discover a foreign Christmas Movie that will blow you away than seek out “Rare Export,” the movie Roger Ebert called “an original, daring, carefully crafted film.

-James J. Coker

TERROR TV – Tales from the Crypt – Mournin’ Mess

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The best episode from Season 3 of “Tales from the Crypt!” Yes that is a statement because the early seasons of “Tales from the Crypt were the best but I do really believe Mournin’ Mess is the best of that season. The episode is about a sleazy and very down on his luck newspaper reporter who gets way more than he bargained for when he uncovers the truth about the city’s cemetery and a mysterious charity organization that disposes the corpses of deceased homeless people. What’s effective about this episode is that it’s a compelling story done at a quick pace so your never bored. Creepy “back alley” type Atmosphere and an ending that is incredibly ghoulish and nasty that it just sticks with you. If you ever happen to catch “Tales from the Crypt” on FearNet or you have all the seasons on DVD (bless your ghoulish heart if you do) and decide to pop in Season 3. Give the best episode of said season “Mournin’ Mess” a watch

-James J. Coker

HIDDEN HORROR – Suicide Club

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Obscure even to horror fans. I’m not too big on Japanese horror but this one…DAMN! So surreal, creepy, damn bloody and just plain weird! A Japanese horror film that leaves you confused and guessing yourself. There are so many possibilities and interpretations that one could be kept awake all night thinking. Once you think you have some idea of its meaning something else crazy happens, causing you to second guess yourself. Then once you second guess yourself—baby chicks appear, yellow raincoats and weird japanese pop songs appear. Your head explodes.

 

-James J. Coker