The movie watching experience is a very subjective one. What one person finds terrifying might not faze someone else and what upsets someone might not affect someone else as severely.
When I took to Twitter the question of “What horror movies, if any, have made you cry?” these were some of the titles that came up.
Happy Death Day (2017) and Happy Death Day 2U (2019)
Whenever I hear people talking about their experience the first time they saw Happy Death Day to you, the phrase “pleasantly surprised” comes up fairly often. I was one of those people. The idea for this list stemmed from me admitting that I cried when I saw Happy Death Day 2U in a theater and people were popping up saying, “same.”
Tree (Jessica Rothe) starts off as a “mean girl in a slasher movie” but as the story progresses you begin to root for her. All of that anger and sarcasm was a defense mechanism after her mother’s death, made even tougher by the fact that they shared a birthday. In Happy Death Day 2U, when Tree wakes up in the alternate Monday the 18th in another dimension where, not only is she surprised to see that her love-interest, Carter, is dating her suddenly nice sorority sister, Danielle, but her mother is alive. Tree is forced to consider all of the possibilities for her future, in multiple dimensions, and makes her decision after a heart-to-heart in a hotel room with her mother (as Creature From The Black Lagoon plays on the television).
The Final Girls (2015)
“Her hair is Harlow gold. Her lips are sweet surprise. Her hands are never cold. She’s got Bette Davis eyes.”
The movie opens with Max (Taissa Farmiga) watching a movie trailer on her phone of an ultimate-80’s-camp-slasher movie Camp Bloodbath that stars her mother, Amanda (Malin Akerman). Trying to stay positive about their stressful financial situation after an awkward audition, Amanda cranks up “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes on the car radio as she and Max sing with the windows down. Boom. They get broadsided in an accident, killing Amanda. When Max and friends are at a special showing of Camp Bloodbath at their local theater, a fire sends them running for an exit and they end up the movie itself. They come face to face with the campy characters and Max comes face to face with her mother again as her movie character (aptly named Nancy). Max feels such guilt and instinct to protect her mother’s character in the movie and to prevent her from dying next to her again. Ultimately, Nancy sacrifices herself to make Max “the final girl”.
Train To Busan (2016)
Train To fucking Busan
I started off feeling like I was just watching any other zombie movie then part way through I’m shouting at my television for Sang-hwa to shout out a baby name to his pregnant wife before he gets mauled by a hoard of zombies. The story focuses on Seok-woo (Yoo Gong) and his young daughter, Soo-an (Su-an Kim) and the audience quickly gets an attachment to them and all of the characters surrounding them in an emotional and face-paced fight for survival. Seok-woo makes the ultimate sacrifice and stays behind after he’s bitten and Soo-an is screaming and crying but she’s safe on a departing train.
Was anyone else ready to throw something at their tv if that military guy pulled the trigger and shot them both at the end?
A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
Dream Warriors brought back our Top-Tier Final Girl Nancy (Heather Langenkamp)…made us feel her compassion and badassery again as she protects and relates to Kristen (Patricia Arquette) and all of the kids at the hospital…then Freddy finally got to kill the one who had outsmarted him so fantastically. Patricia Arquette’s performance during this scene makes it all the more emotional as she sobs, “I’ll dream you into a beautiful dream.”
Fans would get the return of Heather Langenkamp as she returned to play Nancy one last time in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.
Give. Toni. Collette. Her. Damn. Oscar.
And give Alex Wolff one, too, while you’re at it.
The death of a grandmother is what strikes me personally so I was feeling Hereditary’s effects as soon as the movie started. The opening of the movie is really the most “tame” part of the entire movie. Charlie’s shocking death…the infamous dinner scene…the piano wire…
If you’ve ever been in the room or in the next room when someone gets news of a death and you just hear the wailing, then you know exactly what I’m getting at.
A Quiet Place (2018)
Let me apologize to you right off the bat if your theater experience with this was anything but a mostly quiet theater. My theater was silent minus the occasional sounds of an older woman in the row behind me munching on popcorn.
Directed and starring John Krasinski as patriarch Lee, the movie opens with the family returning from a trip into the city as they do their best to silently step through the wilderness. When the youngest son drops a toy rocket that he had taken from the store, he’s viciously snatched up by the sound-sensitive monsters in a jaw-dropping moment. During the climax of the movie, the monsters have their two kids pinned in a truck, and Lee has one final option. As soon as Lee begins to sign “I love you. I have always loved you” to his deaf daughter, you start getting punched in the gut because you know he’s about to start screaming at the top of his lungs.
That was unexpected and the tears were also unexpected.
Late Phases: Night Of The Wolf (2014)
“When the creature then kills his seeing eye dog, McKinley’s thirst for justice turns into a one-man vendetta against the monster that’s terrorizing his neighborhood.”
So it tells you right in the synopsis on the back of the DVD case that the dog dies but it doesn’t prepare you for it. Ambrose (Nick Damici) is holding his bloodied dog as he’s slowing dying, begging for someone to help him, and it fucking hurts. People always poke and prod at horror fans with things like, “You can watch Saw and be fine but feel sad when the ASPCA commercial comes on?” Fuck. Yes.
The Exorcist television series (2016-2018)
Possibly the most underrated horror television show in recent memory.
Season one brought the intensity and season two brought out the emotion. Foster parent Andy (John Cho) has to process his wife’s suicide along with the five foster kids that they had taken in. After the demon attacks everyone’s most vulnerable emotions, it makes its way to Andy, who sacrifices himself with a bullet to the head, delivered by Marcus (Ben Daniels), to put an end to the vicious cycle. Before dying, Andy is able to give a message to Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) to relay to each kid individually about how much he cares about them and what he loves about them each personally and, damn, the tears were streaming.
Ready Or Not didn’t need to say much to make me want to see it. The previews showed us New Age Scream Queen Samara Weaving in a lacy wedding dress and yellow Converse high-tops wielding a huge shotgun as she was forced into a deadly game of hide and seek on her wedding night. The film’s wide-release came on August 21, 2019. That weekend, I was already seeing horror fans on social media screaming to the tune of, “Do not wait to see this movie. Go see it in a theater.” I went to a midday showing the following week in a fairly empty theater. Even though I was by myself in the theater, I knew I was among a number of horror fans who cheered when Grace let loose a slew of juvenile obscenities followed by a, “fucking rich people,” and when she punched a rich kid in the face. Ending on such a satisfying note where the mansion goes up in flames while Stereo Jane’s cover of “Love Me Tender” plays. Once the credits started rolling, I was ready to turn around and buy a ticket to the next showing and buy some yellow Converse.
The film was put together by Radio Silence Productions, a trio consisting of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, and Chad Villella (V/H/S segment 10/31/98, Southbound, and the upcoming Scream film). It was quickly “Certified Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes and received generally positive reviews from critics and fans alike, with David Sims of The Atlantic writing, “The real fun in Ready Or Not comes from the ways it subverts its time-tested story, balancing wry commentary and straightforward horror in its portrait of fumbling arrogance and curdled privilege.”
Ready Or Not does not hesitate and grabs the audience by the throat as soon as the curtains go up. We see a running man in a bloodied tux with arrows sticking out of his torso and two scared young boys in matching PJs, unsure of who is chasing whom. The older boy, Daniel, hides his younger brother, Alex, into a cabinet armoire, before shouting, “He’s in here,” alerting the rest of his family to where the groom has run off to. A swarm of people in masks and robes enter and shoot him with another arrow. A sobbing bride is held back, and we later learn she is stern and pointed Aunt Helene.
And then we jump to 30 years later.
The anxious bride, Grace (Samara Weaving), is rehearsing her wedding vows, she shifts and lights a cigarette and continues, “And even though your family is richer than god and intimidates the hell out of me, your dad definitely hates me and your alcoholic brother keeps hitting on me, honestly can’t wait to be a part of your moderately fucked up family.”
In her wedding vows, Grace mentions that she was brought up in foster homes. While her foster parents did what they could to provide, she never felt a sense of “permanence” in her life or with her family. Having dysfunctional or disorderly family members probably seemed normal to her through whatever television or movies she watched. Even The Brady Bunch would have some sort of problem that the family would resolve within a half hour.
Part of the brilliance of Ready Or Not is the dialogue. The characters don’t need to present epic, emotional monologues for us to learn who they are and how they experience and process events. As the family is taking photos before the wedding ceremony, we get a series of awkward photos and dark humorous commentary, particularly from the eldest Le Domas son, Daniel (Adam Brody). Daniel is painfully aware of how his family unit runs and how “the rich really are different”. He advises Grace to let the glares from the family roll off of her shoulders and when his wife, Charity (Elyse Levesque), remarks on how Grace may never be a real part of the family he responds with, “Of course not, dear- she has a soul.” Subtle, right?
One of the most subtle yet strategic bits of writing comes while the family is counting down and arming up to play the game. Fitch and Emilie’s sons, Georgie and Gabe, are being put to bed and one of the maids is reading them a bedtime story. But she’s not reading them Berenstain Bears or Goosebumps- she’s reading them John Milton’s epic poem from 1667, Paradise Lost. The audience comes in as she’s reading this passage-
“Here we may reign secure; and in my choice To reign is worth ambition, though in hell: Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.”
The Le Domas family at their core is guilty of the sins of wrath, greed, and pride, and choosing this book as a bedtime story further proves that the family’s obsession with power is passing down from generation to generation.
While we never learn the full backstory of Daniel and Charity’s relationship, we know it bears some similarities to Alex and Grace’s relationship. Daniel was the rich boy and Charity (fitting name) came from somewhere one could call “less fortunate”. The biggest difference being how open they are about how fucked up their lives are and their situations have been. That doesn’t mean they’re in a healthy relationship because they’re incredibly together.
Daniel: “Alex may have been in the wrong to keep Grace in the dark, but do you remember how you reacted when I told you about this? You didn’t fucking blink. I mean, you couldn’t wait to sign your soul away.”
Charity: “You know where I came from and what my life was like before. I’d rather be dead than lose all of this.”
Lucky for them, Charity just pulled the chess card on their wedding night.
And, luckily(?) for Charity, after she shoots her husband in the neck as she fears she may lose her rich-status, she does end up dying instead of losing everything.
Meanwhile, on Alex and Grace’s wedding night, after the game begins, and Grace pulls the one bad card, Alex’s true colors begin to show even more. Grace is in hysterics over her new in-laws trying to kill her and Alex hits her with the-
Alex: “You wanted to get married?”
Grace: “So it’s my fucking fault?! Are you fucking serious?!”
Not only does this fall under a common gaslighting technique (deflecting due blame), it falls under the same umbrella as referring to your wife as “the ol’ ball and chain”. If Alex hadn’t already referred to Grace as “the old lady” then he was going to sooner or later. Remember how much we hated Glenn in The Wedding Singer? It’s the same shit. Maybe he didn’t want to get married but rather than admit they were unhappy or uncomfortable, like a jealous child with a toy, they tighten their grip. He’s also trying to deflect the blame from himself. Saying they were content with their 18-month long “bone fest” before the topic of marriage came up.
It’s a long told tale of affluent kids- the Le Domas kids have never been told “no”.
Whether it’s something good or bad, they’ll get what they want. Emilie has a hefty drug habit and a husband who is more than happy to indulge in private jets and a variety of said drugs. Daniel has alcohol at his disposal.
And Alex has Grace.
As Grace confronts him about his family’s so-called tradition,
Grace: “You didn’t even fucking talk to me, you could have told me…”
Alex: “If i told you, you would’ve left. If i didn’t propose you would’ve left.”
It’s a less- drastic version of saying, “if you leave me, i’ll kill myself”. He’s trying to garner sympathy for himself and make himself seem like more of a victim. He’s a victim of circumstance but that’s about it. He grew up within a family that was ready to sacrifice goats (literal and figurative) to keep their status. Something that would seem outlandish to some but was it fed to them as a normal thing. It’s a reason but not an excuse.
And as the events of the night unfold and the sun is about to come up, Alex comes to think he may lose Grace anyways as she’ll reject him. He bemoans, “You won’t be with me after this, will you?” Grace is bloodied and beaten and just bashed her mother-in-law’s head in. Without a word, Alex places his hands on Grace’s cheeks, seemingly in last-ditch affection, until we see Grace is in pain at the hands of her husband. If he can’t have her, then she’s just another sacrifice.
And it boils down to this- men are afraid that women will laugh at them and women are afraid that men will kill them.
It. Fucking. Happens.
Women have said “no” to giving a man their phone number or no to going to a high school dance with them and then been savagely killed by the men they turned down.
Short of getting down on his knees to add more theatricality to his begging, Alex cries out a slew of affectionate words to Grace, “Honey I’m really sorry, I’m not like them…I get a do-over sweetie, and that’s because of you.” After almost stabbing her to death as part of a satanic ritual, he’s ready to smother her with affection to save his own ass and smooth over the situation- a very tall and impossible order at this point in the game.
And then Alex blows up with the rest of his family after Grace throws the ring at him and says, “I want a divorce.”
National Domestic Violence Hotline, which also includes LGBTQ+ relationship resources
Through the powers of the internet, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Gracie and Abbey of Good Mourning, Nancy Podcast. A bi-weekly podcast that has just begun its 8th season, Gracie and Abbey are feminist horror fans who cover a wide range of horror movies, having some fun discussions yet they aren’t afraid to call out a movie’s cringe-worthy moments.
So lets get some coffee and have some fun.
You always mention having a nice cup of coffee during your discussions, so how do you take your coffee?
Gracie: Black as midnight on a moonless night!
Abbey: I take my coffee black or with a little bit of cream. I’m too old for dark roasts now, so I stick to the medium roasts.
If someone has never listened to your podcast, which episodes would you recommend them to start with?
G: I think our episode on The VVitch is pretty good. I also have a soft spot for our Frankenhooker, Hereditary, and Peeping Tom episodes.
A: I always tell new listeners to start with The VVitch or Get Out– they’re newer horror films but they really get to the heart of what the podcast has been about from the start.
Frankenhooker, Misery, Beetlejuice, and Frankenstein and Bride Of Frankenstein are a few of my favorite episodes.
Has the idea ever come up of going back and revisiting movies you’ve covered earlier on in the podcast and “updating” episodes with your thoughts that might have changed on certain subjects?
G: Oh hell yes! I can’t listen to our older episodes at all. I cringe so hard because we had no idea what we were doing at the beginning. Now that we have a better grasp on our show and we have become more knowledgeable, I would like to “redo” a few of those episodes.
A: I think about that all the time! Mostly when I come across new articles or ideas about the films, or if I rewatch it and catch little details that I’ve missed during previous viewings. But I think some of the movies can have different applications as far as what’s happening culturally or socially, and I’m like, “AH DANG, that would have been awesome to talk about for that past episode!”
If you could go back in time and see the original theatrical run of any movie, which would you pick? The Exorcist? Psycho?
G: I love this question! Between The Exorcist and Psycho I’d pick The Exorcist but if I was going to pick any horror movie I’d pick House on Haunted Hill (1959)! I want to see that skeleton fly over the audience!
A: Probably The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or John Carpenter’s The Thing. Both were kind of genre-shaping for future generations, so to see a movement like that take place in horror, (especially for the special effects) would have been incredible!
Who are some female-characters in horror movies you feel don’t get the credit they deserve or just get often overlooked in discussions, Final Girls or not.
G: Lex Woods from Alien Vs Predator does not get as much hype as she should. She is so cool! I remember seeing that movie in the theaters when I was 16 and I wanted to be her so bad! I thought it was awesome how she became an honorary Predator. This was during my early fan fiction writing days so I wrote a few fan fics about her! And they will never see the light of day *laughs*
A: I’d have to say Selena from 28 Days Later. She’s SUCH a badass and such a good representation of women in horror, and I feel like she is never talked about. I’m looking forward to recording an episode of that movie in the future!
What are some of your comfort movies? Horror or not.
G: The Haunting (1963) is my “rainy summer day” movie. My non-horror comfort movies tend to be steeped in nostalgia so A Little Princess (1995), Matilda (1996) and The Secret Garden (1993) are some of my childhood faves.
A: I LOVE The VVitch and Midsommar, Arsenic and Old Lace is also a staple. When I’ve been watching a lot of horror or listening to too much true crime, I watch Pride & Prejudice (the one with Kiera Knightly) because the score is incredible and it’s full of rich golden hour light. And it’s grossly romantic. If I need to laugh, I watch Goon. It’s so, so good!
Heck yes! I love Goon. It never fails to get a laugh out of me.
On your show, you’ve discussed some of the classic Universal Monsters such as Dracula, Creature From The Black Lagoon, and Frankenstein and The Bride Of Frankenstein. With the success of Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man, more modern takes are going to be on the way. How would you like to see your favorite monster adapted to modern times?
G: We talk about [in our Bride of Frankenstein episode] how the Bride is probably queer, which is why she doesn’t love the monster. I’d love for this to be blatantly shown on screen! And I feel like the Creature (my favorite movie monster) was already remade by Del Toro when he did The Shape of Water. I love it and I kinda hope it’s the only Creature remake in my lifetime.
A: Oh, that’s a good question! I would love to see another remake or at least reimagining of the OG Cat People.
If you had music playing in the background of your life, which existing movie score would you choose or which composer would you choose to create your soundtrack?
G: I LOVE the soundtrack from Prevenge (2016) by ToyDrum. I feel like it perfectly fits my life. I also really like the music from Near Dark (1987) by Tangerine Dream. So, some gentle melodic synth for my soundtrack.
A: Mark Korven- I would want him to write a score for my life. He’s responsible for the music in The VVitch and The Lighthouse. Although, I feel like my life isn’t really dreadful enough for that, so I don’t really know if that would work!
Do you have any horror collectibles or memorabilia? If you had to choose, which would be your favorite?
G: I have this large, vintage Creature from the Black Lagoon toy and it’s so funny. It’s battery operated so when you push a button it roars and moves its arms! I also have an autographed Scream poster by Skeet Ulrich and autographed briefs by Barry Bostwick.
A: I have a really great Wolf Man mask that I painted when Gracie and I did a promo photo shoot together for the show, and she’s got a Creature From The Black Lagoon mask. It’s so sentimental to me. I’ve also got a photo signed by Sid Haig that I got from Scare-A-Con when Gracie and I went together. I was so excited to meet him and Gracie and I had SUCH a good time!
Lastly, are there any writers/directors/podcasters/other content creators you’d like to give shout-outs to to keep the positivity train going?
G: YOU! It’s been so cool getting to know you, Gizmo! Also Spinsters of Horror is such a great podcast! I also want to shout out Carolyn from Velvet Hand Designs!
A: Black Men Can’t Jump [In Hollywood] reviews films with leading actors of color and analyzes them in the context of race and Hollywood’s diversity issues. Those guys are doing an AMAZING job. @brettmanningart on Instagram has lots of cool witchy stuff to check out, along with my girl Maggie Morse and her stuff, Unremorseful Art!
Anthony Perkins is well-known for portraying Mama’s Boy Norman Bates in Alfred Hithcock’s Psycho, based on the Robert Bloch novel of the same name. Bloch based the character on real-life serial killer Ed Gein. Perkins reprised the role of Norman in three Psycho sequels through 1990, and even directed Psycho III in 1986. Sadly, the life of the actor resembled the closeted life of Norman Bates a little too much.
Anthony Perkins was born on April 4, 1932 to Janet Esselstyn and stage and screen actor Osgood Perkins. His father passed away of a heart attack when Perkins was five years old, leaving him with his mother. In a 1983 interview, Perkins recalled his mother as, “She wasn’t ill-tempered or mean, just strong-willed, dominant… She controlled everything about my life, including my thoughts and feelings.” He also recalled her smothering and sometimes inappropriate physical contact.
Following in his late-father’s footsteps, Perkins began acting on stage at age 15 and made his on-screen debut in 1953 in The Actress. In 1960, he got a call about a role in the latest Alfred Hitchcock film.
“‘Hitchcock wants you in his new picture. One of his last.’ In those days that’s all Hitchcock had to say.”
The famous role was a blessing and a curse- people recognized him and knew his name but he was only seen as the dark, tragic character. So, to escape, he began acting in Europe through the rest of the 1960s.
According to his biography as written by Charles Winecoff, Perkins had only had same-sex relationships until he was in his 30s. It’s known that he had had relationships with actors Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter and he had a relationship spanning six years with choreographer Grover Dale. Rock Hudson would later become one of the first famous names to die from complications of AIDS in 1985.
Movie studios during the 1950s and 1960s were swift to distract from rumors that an actor was gay by publically setting them up with beautiful, young actresses. Tab Hunter remembered during his time with Perkins
“Warner Brothers never said a word about my sexuality, and that’s just the way I wanted it. However, Paramount did have something to say about my relationship with Tony, and they told him they didn’t want him to see me anymore. Every studio was run by an executive who had their own policies and their own ways of doing things. And Paramount ran a really tight ship.”
While looking back on a certain sexual encounter, Perkins referred to gay sex as “unsatisfying” and then he remembers a beautiful actress making advances at him and his thoughts were, “Sooner than get close to her, I would have crashed through the window and fallen to the pavement 10 stories below.” Through these times, Perkins was participating in psychoanalysis to try and curb his homosexual urges, trying to find the “gay cure”, if you will .
Perkins did not have a serious relationship with a woman until he was almost 40 years old. In 1973, at age 41, he married his wife, Berry, and they had two sons together.
As Winecoff was putting together his biography on Perkins, he uncovered the “double life” he led as a married man. Author Felice Picano says he had a sexual encounter with Perkins after he got married to Berry. Winecoff found employees of sex shops and hotel bell boys who remember having encounters with Perkins, as well.
In 1990, Perkins went in to get blood tests done on a palsy that had developed on his cheek. In a trashy move, someone working in the medical building went to The National Enquirer with news that “ ‘Psycho’ Star Anthony Perkins Has AIDS Virus”. Perkins saw the cover and that was news to him. He went and immediately got tested for HIV and it came back positive. Once the rumor was confirmed, he stayed quiet and private about it, fearing it would keep him from acting ever again. It was 1990- this was still on the fringes of it all being “the gay plague”. While I cannot speak for him, I feel if he had any negative feelings about his past relationships or sexual experiences then he would not have worked with charities in support of others with AIDS.
In a personal statement written shortly before his death, Perkins admits as to why he stayed quiet about his diagnosis and discusses his personal emotions as he lived with it, taking a jab at Hollywood life while he was at it-
“I chose not to go public about (having AIDS) because, to misquote Casablanca, ‘I’m not much at being noble,’ but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of one old actor don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world…There are many who believe that this disease is God’s vengeance, but I believe it was sent to teach people how to love and understand and have compassion for each other…I have learned more about love, selflessness and human understanding from the people I have met in this great adventure in the world of AIDS than I ever did in the cutthroat, competitive world in which I spent my life.”
Anthony Perkins passed away in his home from AIDS-related pneumonia at the age of 60 on September 12, 1992.
Upon his death, in lieu of flowers, the family asked for donations to be made to Project Angel Food, an outreach program providing food delivery services to people living with HIV/AIDS and other critical illnesses. In 1990, Anthony and his wife chaired the “Angel Art” fundraiser, which raised over $540,000 for the organization. Project Angel Food is still an active organization in the Los Angeles area.
After the book on Hunter’s life story and the subsequent Netflix documentary, a movie was in development that would tell the story of the relationship between him and Perkins, Tab & Tony, produced by Zachary Quinto and J.J. Abrams, but there hasn’t been any news on that beyond 2019 (unfortunately).
There is a discussion to be had about LGBTQ+ representation in the media, and how poorly it has been handled, and it’s not a discussion I would avoid. However, this is not about that. This is me speaking of my own experiences. This is not me speaking on behalf of everyone. Please bear with me on a lot of this because it was all a long process about learning about myself and learning about the LGBTQ+ community. If someone comes to you and tells you that Silence Of The Lambs is harmful then listen to them. Don’t let my experiences dampen the experience of others. And my experiences with Silence Of The Lambs have been positive ones.
Setting aside the debate of whether or not it’s horror or to what degree it is a horror movie, Silence Of The Lambs was one of the first horror movies I saw. It was in the small but fun company of A Nightmare On Elm Street, Evil Dead 2, and Maximum Overdrive. I don’t remember exactly the first time I saw it, I was probably in the 8th grade or it was around that time. I knew at that time I was attracted to girls more that I was attracted to boys and I was stepping my way towards calling myself a lesbian.
I was instantly drawn to Jodie Foster’s Clarice Sterling and her story. I thought Hannibal Lecter was incredibly intruiging and suave on top of being a cannibalistic serial killer. I finally understood the “put the lotion in the basket” references that people would joke about.
As I was immersing myself more and more into horror movies, I was watching a lot of behind-the-scenes features on DVDs and if there was a show on TV about the making-of a movie then I would stop and watch it, not caring if I had seen it before. Watching a special on Silence Of The Lambs, the “coming up” spot before a commercial was showing people with signs protesting the opening of the movie. I thought to myself, “Why would people be protesting this?…ooooohhhhh.”
I could instantly see why someone would be against the character of Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb and how it is a negative representation. At first, I had just thought the character of Buffalo Bill was someone dressing in drag. I didn’t know the depth of gender identity or expression and that there is a difference between drag performers and someone who is transgender. The character is a combination of real life serial killers Ted Bundy, Jerry Brudos, and Ed Gein. Brudos and Gein were known for dressing in feminine clothing and Gein had actually made a “woman suit”.
Silence Of The Lambs and the character of Buffalo Bill were my introduction to the world of true crime and LGBTQ+ characters.
If you ask any horror fan in the LGBTQ+ community and they’ll tell you that there is an incredible lack of positive representation in the genre. If there is a “token” gay character then it’s a safe bet that they’re going to die or, in some cases, be the killer or helping the killer (why I did not like High Tension or the Scream TV series). We’ve never had a lesbian Laurie Strode as some sort of counterbalance.
When I was a child, I was very observant of those around me and what certain “norms” were. I wondered why it was ok for guys to walk around without shirts all the time and wondered why girls couldn’t. I felt weird having certain things done for me, such as men acting “chivalrous”. That was how I wanted to act. I was in that transition of “tomboy” to “trans”.
Over the years, I’ve probably identified myself in enough different ways to fill out a bingo card, and it took me a long time to accept that that’s ok. The first time someone called me “sir” in public I cried. I just sat in my car and cried. I didn’t know if that’s who I was. I knew about transgender people but I still thought the options were man or woman. I would have an identity crisis like clockwork my senior year of high school.
These were things I was feeling (and still feel) but I never felt wrong about feeling those ways until someone told me it was wrong.
It wasn’t until I was out of high school that I learned there was a grey-area in gender. Thanks to the internet, I learned about terns such as “genderqueer” and “non-binary”. I learned I didn’t have to decide to be one way or another. I learned about being agender and the areas of demigender/demiboy/demigirl. I had to move past what I felt was “acceptable” ways to be trans and just do as much or as little as I felt comfortable doing. I’m still working on that, too. I’m pansexual. I’m demigender and I use they/them pronouns but I will have no opposition if someone refers to me as “sir” in public.
Thomas Harris’ Silence Of The Lambs was published in 1988 and the movie came out in 1991. I wasn’t even born yet (I was born in 1992). Marsha P. Johnson and other black trans women rose up and The Stonewall Riots happened 51 years ago. So much had been happening before I was born and while I was still young. It’s 2020 and I’m 27 now and there’s still so much happening and still so much to learn.
We don’t see “Music From and Inspired By” on the CD cases for soundtracks much anymore, if at all. This is not to knock on modern horror soundtracks. We’ve heard some amazingly beautiful and terrifying musical scores in recent years. This is an ode to the nostalgia of walking through the aisles of a Sam Goody or Media Play and buying a CD in hopes that one specific song you heard in the movie was actually on it.
The Crow (1994)
The soundtrack features Nine In Nails covering Joy Division, Rollins Band covering Suicide, and Pantera covering Poison Idea. The Cure wrote “Burn” just for the movie. At the 1995 MTV Movie Awards, Stone Temple Pilot’s featured song on the soundtrack, “Big Empty”, won Best Song From A Movie.
Graeme Revell’s musical score from the movie was also released and included Eric’s Devil’s Night rooftop guitar solo, “Inferno”.
The Craft (1996)
The Craft: The Music From The Motion Picture was released on CD and cassette. Nova’s cover of Peter Gabriel’s “I Have the Touch” was recorded exclusively for the film’s soundtrack and plays over the end credits. Songs by Siouxsie and the Banshees, Connie Francis, and Portishead were all played in the film but were not on the soundtrack release due to copyright issues from their record labels.
There’s an uncredited bonus track on the soundtrack entitled “Bells, Books and Candles” from Graeme Revell’s film score. The Original Motion Picture Score was released soon after.
The Scream Franchise (1996-2011)
Scream’s soundtrack opens with the teenage anthem, “Youth Of America” by Birdbrain, which is heard in the movie as the audience arrives at Stu’s house for the ill-advised party in a horror movie. The Last Hard Man covered Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” and “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” was covered by Gus Black.
In Scream 2, adorable boyfriend Derek serenade’s Sidney by singing The Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You”. Less Than Jake’s cover of the song can be heard in the credits and is on the soundtrack release.
“Red Right Hand” by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds appears on the soundtrack for the first two movies, as it’s predominantly featured in the first three movies.
And there’s Scream 3...
The soundtrack for Scream 4 has two songs from The Sounds, with “Something To Die For” playing over the film’s title card. The soundtrack is full of alternative pop/rock with a few tracks of Marco Beltrami’s score mixed in.
I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
You almost wouldn’t suspect a movie about affluent teens, a beauty queen, and a working class Freddie Prinze Jr. would have L7, Type O Negative, and Korn on the soundtrack but there they are. Songs by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Bing Crosby were used in the film but do not appear on the soundtrack.
The Faculty (1998)
Marco Beltrami’s score of The Faculty got its own release next to the compilation CD. Two Alice Cooper songs were covered for the film, with Creed covering “I’m Eighteen” and Soul Asylum covering “School’s Out”. David Bowie’s “Changes” was performed by Shawn Mullins.
Bookending the soundtrack are covers of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall” Parts 1 and 2 recorded by Class of ‘99- the rock supergroup formed by Layne Staley (Alice In Chains), Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine), Stephen Perkins (Jane’s Addiction), Martyn LeNoble (Porno For Pyros), and Matt Serletic.
Bride Of Chucky (1998)
This is about where we start seeing the trend of a lot of nu metal bands on horror movie soundtracks, whether their songs were used in the movies or not.
Rob Zombie (White Zombie) songs appear twice in the movie. The first being “Living Dead Girl” playing over the opening credits and later on when “Thunder Kiss ‘65” plays over the radio in the van and Chucky starts headbanging. Blondie’s “Call Me” is used in the movie and shows up on the soundtrack, too.
Then we also have Static-X, Coal Chamber, Judas Priest, Powerman 5000, Slayer, and Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden).
When a movie is written by the lead singer of a metal band, it’s a safe assumption that the soundtrack will be good and full of metal. Strangeland was written by and starred Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider. The soundtrack featured Dee Snider solo and with Twisted Sister, along with Megadeth, Anthrax, Marilyn Manson, Soulfly, Coal Chamber, and Hed P.E.
The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000)
Trying to keep things as “real” as possible, the soundtrack for the found footage film was released as Josh’s Blair Witch Mix and featured Type O Negative, Bauhaus, Front Line Assembly, and Skinny Puppy.
The sequel, Book Of Shadows, had two soundtracks released- the musical score by Carter Burwell and compilation featuring the likes of Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson, Queens Of The Stone Age, System Of A Down, and Nickelback.
American Psycho (2000)
When you think of Mary Harron’s American Psycho, odds are your first thoughts are images of Christian Bale dancing around to “Hip To Be Square” before bludgeoning Jared Leto with an ax. However, the song by Huey Lewis and the News is nowhere on the soundtrack. Maybe the dispute between Huey Lewis and the film was the violent scene that the song was playing through or perhaps it was just a contract issue. We don’t know for sure. But, Koch Records, who were set to release the soundtrack, had to recall 100,000 copies right before the CD was to be released to the public and destroy them (and what a collector’s item that would’ve been).
The first song on the soundtrack is Dope’s cover of “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)” but that song is nowhere in the movie, not even during the credits. This one honestly took me by surprise when I bought the CD but I’m not complaining about it.
Ginger Snaps (2000)
This soundtrack is about as angst-filled as the movie is, so it works very well- Glassjaw, Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall, Saliva, Fear Factory, Hatebreed, and Cradle of Filth.
The uncredited track listing at the end of the soundtrack are “Ginger Snaps – Opening” and “Ginger Snaps Theme Song” by composer Michael Shields.
Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Freddy vs. Jason was another movie that released two soundtracks. The musical score was composed by Graeme Revell and performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, except for three tracks that were performed by Machine Head.
The compilation soundtrack was a gathering of metal heavyweights. Appearing both in the movie and the soundtrack are Spineshank’s “Beginning of the End” (played over the movie’s title card) and Ill Niño’s “How Can I Live” (closing credits). The soundtrack also features Killswitch Engage, Slipknot, Lamb Of God, Stone Sour, Seether, Type O Negative, and Sepultura featuring Mike Patton (Faith No More).
The Resident Evil Franchise (2002-2016)
The score for the first movie was a dual effort from Marco Beltrami (Scream franchise, The Faculty, Joy Ride)and Marilyn Manson.
An alternate version of Killswitch Engage’s “The End Of Heartache” was made for the Resident Evil: Apocalypse soundtrack (sans screaming vocals) along with an alternate version of the music video, edited to contain clips from the movie.
Extinction featured soundtrack-exclusive remixes from Flyleaf, Bayside, and Aiden.
Afterlife, Retribution, and The Final Chapter released their musical scores (Afterlife and Retribution composed by Tomandandy and The Final Chapter by Paul Haslinger) but none of the final three movies had a compilation soundtrack.
The Underworld Franchise (2003-2016)
Outside of the musical scores, the soundtracks are almost solely remixes. AFI, Thrice, My Chemical Romance, Senses Fail, Hawthorne Heights, Lacuna Coil, and Deftones,amongst other artists, were all given the electronic/industrial remix treatment and put on the soundtracks.
Resident Evil star Milla Jovovich, performing as Milla, contributes “Rocket Collecting” to the soundtrack of the first movie.
For Underworld: Evolution, Atreyu released a soundtrack-exclusive single, “Her Portrait In Black”, and released a music video for the song that featured scenes from the movie.
The Saw Franchise (2004-2010)
Along with the fantastic scores by Charlie Clouser, the Saw movies up through The Final Chapter had soundtracks featuring numerous metal subgenres. Kittie, Suicide Silence, Slayer, Static-X, Meshuggah, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, The 69 Eyes, Bullet For My Valentine, and many more have a spot somewhere on the seven soundtracks.
Avenged Sevenfold, Skinny Puppy, Ministry, and Emilie Autumn all make appearances on multiple Saw soundtracks.
“Killer Inside” by Hydrovibe is on the Saw III soundtrack and features Saw franchise star Shawnee Smith on vocals. The music video for the song can be found on the 2-disc director’s cut DVD.
Chester Bennington (RIP) who plays a white supremicist in the car trap in The Final Chapter appears on the film’s soundtrack with his project Dead By Sunrise with their song “Condemned”.
Snakes On A Plane (2006)
Break out the studded belts and neon sunglasses for this one.
Cobra Starship plus scene singers William Beckett (The Academy Is…), Maja Ivarsson (The Sounds), and Travie McCoy (Gym Class Heroes) teamed up for the title single “Snakes On A Plane (Bring It)”. The music video featured the star of the movie, Samuel L. Jackson, and was played regularly on MTV2. The soundtrack also featured songs from Panic! At The Disco, Fall Out Boy, and The All-American Rejects.
Jennifer’s Body (2009)
And you might as well keep out the scene gear for this one.
The soundtrack features Hayley Willams (Paramore), Panic! At The Disco, Cute Is What We Aim For, and All Time Low. The token teenage emo character, Colin, listens to Screeching Weasel’s cover of “I Can See Clearly Now” on his way to meet Jennifer (and get mutilated) and that song got a spot on the soundtrack.
The War Of The Worlds broadcast was one of my blindspots up until about five years ago. I had driven up north with a friend for a day-trip and they were shocked to learn that I had never actually heard the broadcast. The drive home was a little over an hour so the broadcast filled the time perfectly. Listening as I drove, I could see why the listening public could have been scared out of their wits during the first parts of the show. The acting, the sound effects…I found it fantastic. If you want to listen to it now or have never listened to it before, you can find it on a lot of apps that stream audio, such as Spotify or Youtube. I bought a used copy of the CD of the broadcast in a 2nd & Charles for 99 cents.
If you’re like me, the broadcast is one of those things you hear about but never really learned too much about.
So let’s do it.
The War Of The Worlds came into this world as a story written and published by English writer H.G. Wells in 1898. By this time, Wells’ had already published the science fiction classics The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, and The Invisible Man. In The War Of The Worlds, Wells’ tells a first-person account of an alien invasion of Great Britain, using the names of real cities as place markers, and then shifting away from using the first-person narrative partway through the story and we learn about the events through monologues from other survivors.
Jump ahead about 30 years and cross over into the United States.
The people living in the United States were collectively on-edge for multiple reasons. The Great Depression had started in 1929 and many Americans were still attempting to recover. Political conflicts were on the rise in Europe (World War II would start in 1939). The Hindenburg zeppelin crash in New Jersey on May 6, 1937, had been announced over radio waves by hysterical voices. The War Of The Worlds actor Frank Readick recalled listening to the recording of Herbert Morrison’s radio report of the disaster on repeat for his acting inspiration.
Enter director/writer/producer/actor Orson Welles.
Welles created First Person Singular, a series of weekly hour-long radio dramas (or “radio plays”) that premiered on Monday July 11, 1938, at 9PM EST, presenting an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. After nine weeks on the air, the title of the show changed to The Mercury Theatre On The Air. Their time slot also changed from Monday nights at 9PM EST to Sunday nights at 8PM EST.
The 17th week of the show would fall on October 30, 1938 (Devil’s Night, if you’re from Michigan) and Welles wanted to do something special for their Halloween broadcast.
“I had conceived the idea of doing a radio broadcast in such a manner that a crisis would actually seem to be happening and would be broadcast in such a dramatized form as to appear to be a real event taking place at that time, rather than a mere radio play.”
During the press conference on Halloween morning, Welles said he didn’t believe he was the first to go about presenting stories in this manner, telling that other radio shows have done the same, but he does not name any specific shows. Turns out, the BBC had used a similar approach in 1926 with a radio broadcast about a riot in London entitled Broadcasting The Barricades.
Welles tossed around ideas of potential science fiction works with producers John Houseman and Paul Stewart before deciding to purchase the rights to H.G. Wells’ The War Of The Worlds. Houseman has since been openly skeptical if Welles had even read the book before deciding to make a radio play out of it.
On Monday October 24, six days before their next broadcast was scheduled to air, they handed the book to show writer, Howard Koch (who later wrote the screenplay for Casablanca), and told him to start writing a script. And here Koch was worried that he couldn’t make his radio adaption as interesting to audiences and he was worried it’d be boring or played-out because aliens were “kid stuff”.
Koch’s first draft of the script was done that Wednesday night. Instead of the invasion over Great Britain (as in the book), Koch wrote about the invasion starting in Grovers Mill, New Jersey, tailoring it to an American audience. Similarly to how Wells had done it in his novel, the first part of the play would be first-hand accounts of the invasion as it was happening and the second part would be Welles himself giving long, dramatic monologues, coupled with dramatic scenes, recalling the events of the invasion sometime in the future.
As the editing process began, scenes that had mentioned passages of time (“Last night’s invasion”) and scenes with more theatrical, dramatic dialogue, were cut. The first draft had made it clear multiple times that the alien invasion had taken place over several days and not 40 minutes. Act I of the radio play became longer and pushed Act II backwards. Typically, during radio plays there would be a station break at the midpoint of the show, or about a half hour in, reiterating the show’s title and a moment for sponsored advertising time. Act I of The War Of The Worlds ended up being about 40 minutes long and Act II was just 20 minutes, but doing this also meant that the station break would come 40 minutes into the show rather than 30 minutes in.
Koch turned in a script to CBS executives on Friday and the execs told them they had to “tone down the realism”. They also told them to change the names in the script and not use actual government titles to avoid any potential lawsuits so they changed titles such as “Columbia Broadcast Building” to just “Broadcast Building”, changed “New Jersey National Guard” to a generic “State Militia”, and so on.
On Saturday night, the show was rehearsed along with the full sound-effects team. On Sunday afternoon, the orchestra arrived at the studio with a full dress-rehearsal scheduled for 6PM.
On Sunday night, at 8PM EST, The Mercury Theatre On The Air began their presentation of The War Of The Worlds by H.G. Wells.
At approximately 8:32PM, Houseman saw a CBS supervisor in the control room on the phone. They were being ordered to immediately stop the production and reiterate that everything they were talking about was completely fictional. They were only a couple of minutes from their scheduled station break so they just kept going through to their scheduled break.
Listeners had heard live music from the fictitious Meridian Room at Park Plaza, they had heard about strange explosions on Mars, they had heard aliens coming from cylinder space crafts, and they had listened on as soldiers got evaporated by heat rays and choked on a mysterious cloud of black smoke- all before the station break reminding them, “You are listening to a CBS presentation of Orson Welles and TheMercury Theatre on the Air, in an original dramatization of The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. The performance will continue after a brief intermission. This is the Columbia Broadcasting System.”
CBS was being bombarded with phone calls from people asking if what they were airing had been true. Phone lines as far as the state of Washington had short-circuited due to high volumes of callers trying to call their local radio stations, their local police stations, or calling friends and family, all trying to get answers if there was any validity to the “reported” alien invasion.
Following the conclusion of the broadcast, CBS ran a bulletin at 10:30PM, 11:30PM, and at midnight that said:
“For those listeners who tuned in to Orson Welles’s Mercury Theatre on the Air broadcast from 8 to 9 pm Eastern Standard Time tonight and did not realize that the program was merely a modernized adaptation of H. G. Wells’ famous novel War of the Worlds, we are repeating the fact which was made clear four times on the program, that, while the names of some American cities were used, as in all novels and dramatizations, the entire story and all of its incidents were fictitious.”
There is still debate over how many people were actually listening to The Mercury Theatre On The Air that night. There was a radio survey taken the night of October 30th and 5,000 homes were called and asked what radio show they were listening to, if any. Only 2% of 5,000 surveyed were listening to The Mercury Theatre while the rest were either listening to another show or nothing at all. By 1939, 28 million American households had radios. If you kept the rate of the 2% that were listening during the survey and applied that to 28 million potential listeners, it’s 560,000 people.
OR there’s other sources that say there could have been up to 12 million people who tuned in.
Kind of a wide range.
There could have been people who tuned in late and missed the show’s introduction. The popular variety comedy show Chase and Sanborn Hour was also airing from 8PM-9PM on NBC. Listeners heard ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his dummy, Charlie McCarthy, at the beginning of the hour but when his act was followed by an unknown singer, some listeners lost interest and changed channels. By then, The Mercury Theatre was already 10-15 minutes into their presentation of The War Of The Worlds and those who had switched to CBS late had missed the show’s introduction and just started with music at the Meridian Room being interrupted by reports of odd occurrences in the sky.
A lot of factors had to line up for someone to absolutely believe that there was actually an invasion occurring. If someone had never listened to The Mercury Theatre before, hadn’t read the announcement of the scheduled shows in the paper, had missed the very beginning of the show, had not know that The Mercury Theatre had switched from airing on Monday nights to Sunday nights, plus all of the script edits, and if you believed in aliens…there could have been a solid half hour of you panicking.
The creatives behind The Mercury Theatre didn’t think the public would believe that aliens from Mars could invade Earth and create all of the devastation that they did within 40 minutes but, as history has repeatedly taught us, a lot of destruction can happen in 40 minutes or less.
“Our actual broadcasting time, from the first mention of the meteorites to the fall of New York City, was less than forty minutes. During that time, men travelled long distances, large bodies of troops were mobilized, cabinet meetings were held, savage battles fought on land and in the air. And millions of people accepted it—emotionally if not logically.”
Newspaper headlines published on that Halloween morning were ripe with incredible headlines. Newspaper companies had been trying to compete with radio because they were losing money as a news outlet and were competing for advertising money. A lot of the lore of the panic was initially spread by them, as they were trying to show that radio was an “irresponsible” medium. The New York Times headline read “Radio Listeners in Panic, Taking War Drama as Fact”. The Detroit News headlined “War Skit on Radio Terrifies Nation”. The New York Daily News headline was “Fake Radio ‘War’ Stirs Terror Through U.S.” and they went as far as to include pictures of a “war” victim on the front page- a woman wearing a sling on her arm who had heard reports of the “black gas” in Times Square and fell while attempting to flee from her apartment and broke her arm. There were at least 12,500 articles published about the broadcast but that hype only lasted a few days before newspapers went back to reporting on the looming war in Europe.
The Associated Press released a slew of reports from all over the country:
-Woman Tries Suicide: Pittsburgh – A man returned home in the midst of the broadcast and found his wife a bottle of poison in her hand screaming: “I’d rather die this way than like that.”
-It’s a Massacre: Providence, R. I. – Weeping and hysterical women swamped the switchboard of the Providence Journal for details of the “massacre.”
-Church Lets Out: Indianapolis – A woman ran into a church screaming: “New York destroyed; it’s just the end of the world. You might as well go home to die. I just heard it on the radio.” Services were dismissed immediately.
-“Where is it Safe?”: Kansas City – One telephone informant said he had loaded all his children into his car, had filled it with gasoline, and was going somewhere. “Where is it safe?” he wanted to know.
Also that morning, Welles was running on about three hours of sleep after an all-night rehearsal for Danton’s Death, the stage play Welles had been working on as well as working with The Mercury Theatre. Welles was turned around to do a press conference bright and early for damage control outside of the CBS building.
Circled by reporters, Welles read a prepared statement to the press:
“Despite my deep regret over any misapprehension that our broadcast might have created among some listeners, I am even more bewildered over this misunderstanding in the light of an analysis of the broadcast itself. It seems to me that they’re our four factors, which should have in any event maintained the illusion of fiction in the broadcast.
The first was that the broadcast was performed as if occurring in the future, and as if it were then related by a survivor of a past occurrence. The date of this fanciful invasion of this planet by Martians was clearly given as 1939 and was so announced at the outset of the broadcast.
The second element was the fact that the broadcast took place at our weekly Mercury Theatre period and had been so announced in all the papers. For seventeen consecutive weeks we have been broadcasting radio sixteen of these seventeen broadcasts have been fiction and have been presented as such. Only one in the series was a true story, the broadcast of Hell on Ice by Commander Ellsberg, and was identified as a true story in the framework of radio drama.
The third element was the fact that at the very outset of the broadcast, and twice during its enactment, listeners were told that this was a play that it was an adaptation of an old novel by H. G. Wells. Furthermore, at the conclusion, a detailed statement to this effect was made.
The fourth factor seems to me to have been the most pertinent of all. That is the familiarity of the fable, within the American idiom, of Mars and the Martians.”
Sooooo, “Sorry, not sorry,” pretty much.
The Federal Communication Commissions investigated the program but no laws were actually broken, so they just kind of wagged their finger and told networks not to take things to such an “extreme” and be more cautious with their presentations.
During the press conference, a reporter asked Welles if, “Knowing what happened, would you do the show over again?” to which he responded, “I won’t say I won’t follow this technique again, as it is a legitimate dramatic form.”
The found footage subgenre seems to be a love it or hate area of movies. Italian director Ruggero Deodato came in with a bang with 1980’s pioneering found footage horror Cannibal Holocaust. A stomach churning tale of a documentary crew that went missing in the Amazon rainforest, Cannibal Holocaust took what Welles’ did with TheWar Of The Worlds and turned it up to 11. Upon the film’s release, Italian courts seized the film and went after Deodato with charges of obscenity. The courts believed that Deodato had filmed the actual mutilations of the actors and were preparing to charge him with murder. To boost believability of the film, Deodato had the actors sign contracts saying that they would “disappear” for a year or so after the release. When the actors “reappeared” in front of a judge, the charges were dropped.
Typically, one could lump found footage in as strictly a thing that horror movies do, there are some found footage science fiction movies. 2008’s Cloverfield tells the story of friends out partying in New York City when aliens attack. Cloverfield was successful enough to spawn two sequels, 10 Cloverfield Lane and The Cloverfield Paradox, however, the sequels are not presented as found footage. 2011’s Apollo 18 tells the story of NASA’s cancelled Apollo 18 mission as if they had actually taken off to the moon and encountered spider-like creatures on the moon. In real life, the Apollo 18 mission (as well as the Apollo 19 and 20 missions) were cancelled due to budgetary reasons.
Following the success (and notoriety) of The War Of The Worlds broadcast, Campbell’s Soup signed on to sponsor The Mercury Theatre and it became The Campbell Playhouse in December 1938. Welles continued working the show for the next two years. Welles then landed in Hollywood where he directed and played the title role in what many call the greatest movie ever made- Citizen Kane.
The War Of The Worlds saw two theatrical releases- the first in 1953 from Paramount Pictures and one in 2005 directed by Steven Speilberg. The title has also found life in numerous direct-to-video movie releases, music, video games, a board game, and loads of spoofs in movies and television shows including Tim Burtons’ Mars Attacks!, Scary Movie 4, and The Simpsons episode Treehouse of Horror XVII.
“We now return you to the music of Ramon Raquello playing for you in the Meridian Room of the Park Plaza Hotel situated in downtown New York.”
The short of it- Red Eye was a rape revenge movie without being a rape revenge movie and Lisa is a Top Tier Final Girl that 2005 was not ready for.
The long of it-
Red Eye is the first feature screenplay from Carl Ellsworth, who later wrote Disturbia and The Last House On The Left remake in 2009, and it was based on a story by Ellsworth and Dan Foos. Veteran horror director Wes Craven (RIP) takes a side-step from the genre he’s well associated with and helms this suspense-thriller. Our main players are Rachel McAdams (The Notebook, Mean Girls) as Lisa Reisert, Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later) as Jackson Rippner, Brian Cox as Joe Reisert, Jayma Mays as Cynthia, and Jack Scalia as Charles Keefe. The music was composed by Marco Beltrami, who also composed the music for Scream movies 1 through 4.
We’re introduced to Lisa in the back of a cab on a rainy night, talking on the phone to fellow hotel employee, Cynthia. There was a flub at the hotel over a reservation for two regulars, who become irate, and Lisa guides Cynthia through fixing it and, ultimately, making the customers happy. If you’ve worked in any sort of customer service position, you’ve been forced to keep a straight face and deal with asshole customers, and Lisa seems to be a pro.
As the audience files into a busy airport, there’s hundreds of background characters one can watch, including cameos from actors who had worked with Craven in Scream 2, The Serpent & The Rainbow, and even Craven himself (if you know where to look). A young girl is parting ways with her mother to take her first flight by herself. A pleasant older woman chats up Lisa after seeing the Dr. Phil book she’s carrying and Lisa passes along the book to her. While Lisa tries to defuse tensions between an asshole customer and an airline worker, Jack steps in. Jack has just been another face in the crowd of passengers until he steps forward to back up Lisa. After the planes are delayed further, Lisa sees this mystery man again and they sit adjacent to each other at the bar. Making conversation, Jack tries to play suave and coy by guessing what her drink of choice is. He lands on a Sea Breeze to which she corrects him by saying her drink of choice is a Bay Breeze. As she takes her first drink, she noticeably grimaces at the taste, which would seem odd for her “drink of choice”, no matter how cheap or watered down the alcohol was.
Jack seems charming enough. When the pair meet each other again as they’re seated on the same plane, it would be the start of a romantic comedy. While the plane goes through a patch of turbulence, Jack talks to Lisa about her family, her grandma who had just passed and her parents. She thanks him for the distraction, and goes back to asking about his job, to which he responds, “As fate would have it, my job is all about you.” Editor Patrick Lussier recalled that audiences had the same reaction to this that Scream got when audiences heard a voice on the phone ask Casey, “I want to know who I’m looking at.”
He has her now.
Jack is part of a terrorist group aiming to assassinate Keefe, a Homeland Security official. The plot involves his stay at the hotel where Lisa works, and they need her to make a phone call and use her pull as a manager to move him to a different room so it’s easier to hit his room with a shoulder-rocket launcher.
Once Jack’s intentions are revealed, he doesn’t hold back. The charming man she had smiled and joked with at the bar was now a manipulative, controlling, and misogynistic air head. Surrounded by other passengers and roaming stewardesses, Lisa is forced to silence her sobs and play them off as she’s still upset over her grandma’s passing. Jack keeps his charm with the surrounding people as best as he can, but when he turns back to Lisa, that facade falls.
Jack: “Lisa, whatever female-driven, emotion-based dilemma you may be dealing with right now, you have my sympathy. But for the sake of time and sanity, let’s break this down into a little male-driven fact-based logic.”
With each passing scene, Jack’s frustration and desperation grow. She’s not doing what he tells her, she refuses to make the phone call to move Keefe’s room. When he follows her into the airplane bathroom, which the stewardesses dismiss as a “mile high” moment, they’re finally alone, she’s at his mercy and he’s unleashed, choking her and slamming her head against the wall.
Jack: “I think you’re not such an honest person. Because I’ve been following you for eight weeks now, and I never once saw you order anything but a fucking Sea Breeze!”
We don’t ever learn the extent of what Jack’s job is, but he followed her for two months. The idea of assassinating a Homeland security official led to him stalking this woman for two months and waiting until she was in a vulnerable spot.
In the United States alone, there’s an estimated 570 people daily who are victims of a sexually violent crime. This adds up to an estimated 18+ million women and 3+ million men who have been victims of rape since 1998. An estimated 64% of people in the trans* community are victims of a sexual crime. 99% of the people who commit sexually violent acts will face no prosecution and not see prison time for their crimes, mainly due to rape culture that has conditioned people to not believe the victim and often see it as a joke somehow.
If you’ve been a victim of a sexual crime or know someone who has been, you can call 800-656-4673 (800-656-HOPE) if you’re in the States or you can visit https://rainn.org for more resources.
Breaking down the rape revenge movie subgenre comes to- the first act is the violation, the second act is the immediate aftermath and plotting, and the third act is the revenge. The I Spit On Your Grave moviesand the Soska Sisters’ American Mary are two of the most notable ones. The original The Last House On The Left was released in 1972, written and also directed by Wes Craven, in his directorial debut. Red Eye brings us along for the pursuit, the capture, the hostage situation, and every subsequent mental process all within the confines of an airplane and without showing any violent sexual acts. We learn of Lisa’s assault at the start of the third act, as the plane is landing. Throughout the entire movie, the word “rape” is never used. Jack notices a scar below her collarbone as he’s holding her against the wall in the airplane bathroom, and after she says it wasn’t self-inflicted, we’re able to assume he pieced it together.
Lisa: “It happened in a parking lot, the scar, two years ago, in the middle of the day. He held a knife to my throat the whole time. Ever since, I’ve been trying to convince myself of one thing over and over”
Jack (almost sarcastically): “That it was beyond your control.”
Lisa: “No, that it would never happen again.”
It’s not a parking garage, but an airplane, and there’s a “knife” to her throat the whole time. The actual knife is waiting outside of her dad’s house, but she just has to play along long enough to wait for a move to get out alive, which is a tactic still used in rape defense classes. Jack is almost like Richard Ramirez but with better teeth.
Jack: “Once I’m out of your line of sight, I’ll call off Mr. Killer from outside Dad’s and then you’re free. Free to yell and scream, call you dad, tell him to run to the neighbors, sound good?”
The asshole customer that Lisa and Jack had tried to calm in the beginning is the doctor that comes to Jack’s aid as the pen is sticking out of his throat. The pen belonged to teenage boys sitting behind them on the plane that try to annoy each other during the flight. The young girl that had been by herself on the plane kicks her back into the aisle to trip Jack as he’s trying to run after Lisa. Some of these background characters are not obsolete. Nothing in this movie happens without reasons and so much of it is a domino effect.
Lisa has the arc that typically defines any Final Girl. As the plane is landing, that’s when her “final transformation” happens. Laurie had a knitting needle, Ginny had a machete, and Lisa had a cartoon monster pen. She makes it to the final showdown to face her killer. She may not have a house set up with booby traps to catch her villain, like Nancy did, but she has home field advantage. She knows the layout and, just as important, she knows where her field hockey stick is in her closet. Jack, going beyond what he was paid to do, pursues Lisa back to her father’s house- the large house that she grew up in and where her father left her bedroom untouched after she moved out.
Jackson: “I’ll finish the job.”
Lisa: “Not in my house.”
And, we have the fantastic “fuck you” moment of
Lisa: “Where’s your male-driven, fact-based logic now, Jack?”
As the dust settles (literally), Cynthia and Lisa share the screen for the first time. After every exchange on-screen between them is through the phone, there’s a definite satisfaction in seeing these two come together after the hellish ordeal. The first time we see Lisa, she appears more innocent and proper, being a people-pleaser as a hotel manager, even to the demanding and rude customers. At the end, she tells those customers to fill out a comment card and shove it up their asses. In true fashion of early 2000’s movie humor, it ends on a knee-slapping zinger-
The ideas for doing a podcast/blog/whatever started to take shape towards the end of last summer. Doing a series on Romero’s zombie movies was always at the top of the list for discussion topics.
Over the last few weeks, the dots have connected a bit too much.
For my sake and your’s, I’m taking a break from talking about Romero’s zombie movies, and probably zombies in general.
I was excited to talk about Diary Of The Dead because it’s going to be about true crime, which is another topic I’m very interested in, and I’m gonna have to try to not drag my feet with Survival Of The Dead because I haven’t had many positive things to say about that one.
I’m still going to be writing. I have a whole log of topic ideas. Some of the topics may still be heavy but it’s not going to be about this shit. I have something in the works right now and I am so very excited about and can’t wait to share it with everyone.
To everyone that has shown me support, be it reading my posts or talking to me about them or retweeting my posts- I appreciate the fuck out of you and thank you for giving me a chance.
“My zombies will never take over the world because I need the humans. The humans are the ones I dislike the most and they’re where the trouble really lies.”
Content warnings: suicide mention, mental health
The 20 year gap between George A. Romero’s Day Of The Dead and Land Of The Dead was the longest gap between his Of The Dead zombie movies and a lot of crazy shit happened, to say the least. Possibly the biggest fuel for the crazy shit- the 24 hour news cycle. Following up on the development of CNN in 1980, MSNBC launched in 1996 with Fox News following up later that year. The World Wide Web debuted in 1991, making it possible to share news, ideas, and theories faster than ever before. The dumpster fire that is Facebook didn’t appear until 2004.
Political issues, social causes, racial and sexist divides, riots, economic turmoil…everything that had been going on in the United States now had the spotlight on news channels attempting to fill 24-hours of air time.
On February 26, 1993, a bomb was detonated in the parking garage below the World Trade Center buildings in New York City, killing 6 people and injuring upwards of 1,000 people. American citizens began forming their harmful views of anyone who might be from “the Middle East” who could be part of “that al-Qaeda terrorist group”. So, two years later, on April 19, 1995, when a bomb was detonated in a truck outside of a government building in Oklahoma City, some people received a “shock” as they saw a scrawny, pencil neck, white American man named Timothy McVeigh come across their TV screen as the man that had committed the heinous act.
The public saw the government, specifically the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) and FBI, massively fuck up during a 51-day stand-off/seige of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, that resulted in the deaths of 81 people, including 28 children, and their “leader” David Koresh. In 1993, President Clinton signed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” which prohibited openly LGBTQ+ people from serving in the military, an act still causing a harmful ripple in all military branches. Between 1994 and 1995, people watched in awe as the story of O.J. Simpson and the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole, and Ronald Goldman unfolded. People sat with popcorn and pizza to watch the infamous Bronco car chase and “the trial of the century” that occupied news stations for nine months. In the summer of 1995, a heat wave hit Chicago and it resulted in the deaths of 739 people, many of whom lived in poverty or were elderly.
The attacks on September 11, 2001, made the one of the biggest marks in American history. Terrorists hijacked four planes, crashing two into the two World Trade Center buildings in New York City, crashing one into the Pentagon in Virginia, and a fourth crashing in a field in Pennsylvania before reaching its potential target. Over the four crashes, nearly 3,000 people were killed and an estimated 25,000, people were injured. Starting at 8:46 in the morning, millions of people had a front row seat to watch chaos and death live on television.
News of what was happening was almost unavoidable. Citizens of all ages were exposed to sights that were beyond comprehension to some. Anger, fear, stress, and a lot of confusion were felt across the country. A case study in the Boston-area with mothers and children, ages 7-15 years old at the time of 9/11, found that 5.4% of children and 1.2% of parents were given a PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) diagnosis from watching the events of 9/11 on TV. Another 18.7% of children and 10.7% of parents showed signs of PTSD but not enough for a formal diagnosis.
Anti-Muslim hate was firing on all cylanders for some (assholes) now. People were being verbally and physically assaulted almost instantly following the attacks of 9/11 from fearful and uneducated people fearing that they could be the next terrorist. In 2011, a study by the American Psychology Association, found that 82% of Muslim Americans felt unsafe after 9/11. Numbers for PTSD, anxiety, and depression skyrocketed among Muslim Americans.
I bring this up this way because I had just started the 3rd grade when 9/11 happened. I heard about it on the radio in the car on the way to my grandma’s house, where I continued to watch it on TV. Odds are that if you’re reading this, you have some solid memories around that day. Or, maybe you were too young to remember it yourself and learned about it in history class and by stories of people you know.
After the attacks of 9/11, the United States launched itself into war with Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 2001, an estimated 6,828 American personnel have lost their lives during these military campaigns, or double the amount of lives lost during 9/11. Between 2001 and 2014, an estimated 78,000-88,000 soldiers in the Middle East have lost their lives and an estimated 174,000-200,000 civilians have been casualties of war efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
In the few years following 9/11, Americans were fearing something was around any and every corner. Only one week after those terrorist attacks, envelops containing anthrax were sent through the U.S. postal system to media outlets and government buildings, killing 5 and injuring 17 others, ranging in age from 7-months to 94 years old. A few suspects were questioned but no one has ever been convicted for the crimes. In 2002, D.C. was held at hostage for nearly a month as the Beltway Snipers shot and killed ten people and injured another three people seemingly at random while driving around in a Chevy Caprice.
Political punk rock and rap that had rally cries from N.W.A’s “Fuck Tha Police” in the 80s and Bikini Kills’ “Rebel Girl” in the 90s had come back with a vengeance and with common targets. NOFX released War On Errorism in 2003, with album art of a cartoonish-George Bush painted with clown make-up in front of an American flag. When Green Day released American Idiot in 2004, I was part of the sea of teens/young-adults with cheap, smudged eyeliner singing along to lyrics like, “I’m not a part of a redneck agenda. Now everybody do the propaganda and sing along to the age of paranoia.” Then American Idiot went on to win Best Rock Album at the 2005 Grammy’s.
Let us not forget country musicians, specifically Toby Keith, that also spent time on the Billboard charts with their uber patriotic songs boasting support for soldiers being sent overseas. In a punk rock move, Natalie Maines of country-trio the The Chicks called Toby Keith’s song “Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue (The Angry American)” “ignorant” and at a 2002 concert in England told the audience, “We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas” (referring to George W. Bush). It was a move that drew hate and criticisms from country music fans and that damaged their career for a long time. In 2017, Maines continued her outspoken ways in a series of Twitter posts condemning President Trump and his corrupt and hateful ways.
The early 2000s was seeing a modernist surge in zombie movies. The video game-turned-movie franchise Resident Evil began in 2002, releasing seven movies over the next forteen years. Edgar Wright’s horror-comedy Shaun Of The Dead was released in 2004 in England and quickly gained popularity, for being a relatively small release.
In 2004, Zack Snyder released his version of George Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead as a face-paced, blood-soaked, action-packed remake. The film featured cameos from some of the cast of the original movie, but Romero himself had no involvement in Snyder’s movie.
Romero had other ideas forming.
George A. Romero’s Land Of The Dead was built from the ideas that Romero was forced to scrap due to budgetary reasons 20 years earlier in Day Of The Dead. A more modern budget ($16 million) and more modern technologies (CGI) would allow for fancy yet enforced high-rises to shelter the elite and more “developed” zombies. Initial title ideas were Twilight Of The Dead and Dead Reckoning, in reference to the film’s Mad Max-esque train-like tank.
The story of Land Of The Dead takes place seemingly during a “lull” of the zombie-apocalypse, where the rich and powerful are living comfortably in high-rises, known as Fiddler’s Green, while the lower class live on the streets, all surrounded by electric fences and armed guards to keep them safe. Teams are sent out to gather supplies in an attempt to keep everything functioning, mainly to keep those in power comfortable but to also try and help their friends living at their level on the streets.
Land Of The Dead reunites Super Mario Bros. stars John Leguizamo and Dennis Hopper (RIP) where, once again, Leguizamo’s character, Cholo, plays menace to Hopper’s tyrannical leader, Kaufman. Cholo shows the aggression and loyalty of a gaurd dog to Kaufman in an attempt to get himself out of the slums and get a spot in Fiddler’s Green. After being denied, Cholo steals their D.I.Y. armored tank, Dead Reckoning, and threatens to blow up Fiddler’s Green, and the surrounding areas, if Kaufman doesn’t pay his monetary ransom. Tasked with retrieving Dead Reckoning are Riley, played by Simon Baker pre-Mentalist TV fame; sharp-shooter Charlie, played by Robert Joy; and impisoned sex-worker Slack, played by Asia Argento, daughter of famed Italian director Dario Argento, who was the co-producer and co-composer of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978). Romero recalls knowing Asia “since she was knee high to a grasshopper”.
Picking up where the “Bub” zombie left off in Day, we have the “Big Daddy” zombie, played by Eugen Clark. First seen at Big Daddy’s garage and gas station, Big Daddy appears still ready to work and serve customers at the station. He is observed making snarling and barking sounds at other zombies, in an attempt at some form of communicating. Big Daddy observes the other zombies being mezmerized by the “sky flowers” (fireworks) that Riley, Cholo, and company shoot off as distractions so they can safely make their way through the hoards, and Big Daddy is having none of it. He then takes on the role of leader of the pack, moving towards the masses back towards the city, and showing others how to use tools. Notably, he shows the butcher zombie (played by Boyd Banks, who appears as Tucker in 2004’s Dawn of the Dead) how to use his meat cleaver to cut through walls and use it as a weapon. We see even more character zombies (or “stenches” or “walkers”, as they’re called in this) including a softball player, a brass band, another clown zombie, and a zombified-Tom Savini with a leather jacket, wielding a machete, as his character of Blades from the original Dawn.
Also making appearances as zombies are the director and star of Shaun Of The Dead, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg. The pair appear as the chained up zombies at the photobooth. Wright and Pegg were fans of Romero’s zombie movies and Romero was a fan of Shaun so there was a mutual respect and fun to be had in their cameos. Romero’s daughter also makes a cameo as the girl at the guard station by the electric fence who shoots at the zombie who gets caught in the fence.
Romero has stated that the stories of his zombie movies are not connected in any way, but that doesn’t mean there’s no similarities between them. During the opening credits, there were issues with getting right to use footage from Night, Dawn, and Day, due to them all having different property owners, so they shot “new” footage, such as the old radio in black and white (like in Night). In Land, to get in and out of the city, the crews use an abandoned subway tunnel to go underneath the river (like a medieval moat), taking us back underground in passing, reminiscent of Day. During the climatic zombie attack on Fiddler’s Green, a zombie gets trapped in a giant folding umbrella and stumbles around before falling over a table, taking us back to the slapstick of zombies wandering the escalators and ice rink in Dawn. As the hoard of zombies
The main conflict of the movie has almost nothing to do with zombies but rather Cholo’s ambitions to get a cozy spot in Fiddler’s Green, no matter the cost. During the opening scene, while Riley and his team are emphasizing looking for food and medicine to take back to the city, Cholo finds a (well-intact) liquor and cigar store. He intends to bring Kaufman a special treat, and kiss his ass a bit more, and doesn’t appear to care much that a member of his team gets bitten by a zombie in the process and commits suicide right in front of everyone. Riley tries to reason with Cholo, reminding him, ”They wont let you in there, they wont let me in there, and we’re their own kind.” Kaufman turns down Cholo’s request to get a spot in Fiddler’s Green, telling him, “Space is limited.” To which Cholo corrects him by stating, “You mean restricted.”
Back in the city, Riley walks through the slums to his friend, Mulligan, who is giving a speech, almost as a sermon in the streets, slamming Kaufman, ”He didn’t build that place, he took it over, and left us in the slum.” We later hear Kaufman trying to show his good side by telling us, ”I put up the fences and made it safe. I hired the soldiers.”
After the zombies make it across the river and begin attacking the good, kind folk (yes, heavy sarcasm) of Fiddler’s Green, Kaufman looks down in anger, gritting his teeth, “You bastards! You have no right!”
A lot of this stuff sounds familiar…
A lot of this stuff sounds really fucking familiar, doesn’t it?
Kaufman actually says, “We don’t negotiate with terrorists,” when speaking to a colleague about Cholo’s demands. About this, Romero says,
“I always thought that was a little too on the nose but i think that it’s gone a long way to making sure that people understand that there’s a little politics in this”
The audience does receive the satisfaction of seeing Kaufman die a fiery death at the hands of Big Daddy and a zombiefied-Cholo.
Not all horror movies are political nor are all zombie movies. But Romero has said it himself that his zombie movies act as a snapshot of the time periods that they were made. Politically, socially, economically, or whatever, his zombie movies don’t let viewers forget about certain issues.
And we still have a couple of his zombie movies to dive into on here!