Virgin Cheerleader in Chains. I originally couldn’t believe the title of the movie when I saw it. All I knew was that I had to watch it. At only 94 minutes, it wouldn’t be that much of a time commitment. Even if it was bad, it might have some cheesy moments. However, after having watched the film, I can say I was pleasantly surprised with Paulo Filho and Gary Gannaway’s meta comedy horror movie. It’s smart, quirky, and fun enough for fans of the genre to give it a whirl.
The movie follows a group of friends as they try and film a low budget horror movie and end up getting more than they bargained for. But the plot really isn’t the main focus of the movie – it’s just a tool to allow the story to do clever and witty things. The way the film is cut together constantly forced me to pay attention to see how resulting scenes would play out. A good example, is the on the point dialogue. A scene will have characters kind of lament and make fun of horror cliches and then within the scene or the next scene, something will happen related to that initial commentary. It’s intentionally over the top and in your face about it, which for me made it all the funnier. It was a risky decision, but I thought it came off just right. Think closer to Scream than the Scary Movies. My only issue is that this incredibly direct set-up only happens a few times during the run-time, and I thought it was the best part of the movie. There are attempts at jokes made through more conventional meta jokes (whatever that means), but it never feels as unique as the more over the top scenes. There was one scene in particular where I had to go and pause the movie because of how much I started laughing , which I was surprised at.
Aesthetically the film is hit or miss (mainly hit). Most shots are well composed and look professional despite the low budget of the movie. However, certain shots stick out like a sore thumb. In particular, the nature traversal shots look out of place and more amateur. There are also these weird nightmare sequences in the first act that wonky and last too long. They didn’t creep me out as much as ruin my immersion in whatever was going on. Thankfully, the practical effects are great. There’s a lot of blood and a lot of moments of in your face violence. I’m more squeamish, so I had to look away at times, but fans of splatter films should rejoice. Set design is also great, and I appreciate the attention to detail. In particular, the house used for the third act oozes creepiness and I loved the way the way the rooms felt.
Finally, let’s talk about the acting. There are some performances in this movie I absolutely adored. Elizabeth Maxwell’s performance as Amber was amazing and she restored my faith in film after some shaky performances from others in the first act. Her “audition” scene had me crying in laughter after its conclusion and I appreciated it. Kelsey Priblinski is also great at Chloe and really starts to come to life when she gets “certain” suspicions about other characters. The scenes they have together were some of my favorite and oozed personality. However, there’s one one character that made me irritated in almost every scene they were in. Billy. I have no idea why he’s in the script- none of his jokes ever land, and he just feels like a walking racist caricature. I can’t blame Michael Morford too much for his portrayal of Billy, because it felt like the script forced the character to just be horribly unfunny. The accent probably made it worse, but that feels like a script decision. Otherwise, outside of some weaker performances in the first act, the acting is pretty good and believable.
TLDR: Virgin Cheerleader in Chains is funny and smart ,despite feeling uneven at times. I appreciated it’s meta-commentary and wish it had just gone further with it, but the incredibly fun third act was well worth it.
Final Rating: 7.3/10 If you enjoyed Screamyou’d probably enjoy this too. It’s a bold meta-comedy with a ton of fun moments. Go out and support smaller movies, so we can continue to get cool innovative stuff.
I’ve loved horror movies for a long time, but I’ve always found it hard to talk about it with others because of my lack of familiarity with the western cannon. As a kid I started off with horror movies like The Ring and The Grudge and subsequently got into Asian horror. Because of this I never ended up watching common American classics like A Nightmare on Elm Street.
This challenge was my chance to play “catch-up” and improve my understanding of western horror history. I thought it’d be hard because of how many slashers I’d have to watch. I’ve never liked blood – it always makes me feel queasy – so slashers were my natural enemy. However, I did look forward to movies like The Silence of the Lambs and The House of the Devil, because I like supernatural and psychological movies and I find them easiest to get lost in.
The biggest part of the challenge I was scared about was actually forcing myself to watch a horror movie everyday and then write a review within the day. Yes, I tell my friends what I think of movies all the time but writing my thoughts out is a lot more time intensive than casually speaking them. My biggest concern was having a competent review for each movie.
Now that the challenge is done- I thought it’d be interesting to go ahead and analyze the results and experience overall. Did I meet expectations? Was it everything I wanted and more? How did my reviews compare to aggregate sites like IMDb? Tune in and find out.
I went to Metacritic and IMDb and found the aggregate ratings for each of the movies I saw. The Metascore on Metacritic uses a scale of 100. I scaled it back down to a scale of 10 to make comparing the numbers easier.
The sample size is only the 32 movies I saw during the challenge, so take the numbers as you will. As I get more reviews up here I can do more robust analyses. This particular retrospective might seem more trivial, but it’s a fun journey nonetheless.
NOTE: Ratings may change as more reviews are added over time so if you view this well after the posted date- keep that in mind.
Based on my ratings you can tell that this month was good for me. Out of the 32 movies I saw 8 movies that I would classify as a 10. Those movies were:
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
The Silence of the Lambs
In the Mouth of Madness
Even though I’d say I’m more willing to give 10’s than other critics, I still find it amazing how many of the movies profoundly impacted me. On top of these 8 “unicorns”, an additional 4 movies made the A+ squad meaning that 37.5% of the movies I saw were good enough for me to want to recommend then to everyone. These additions include:
Night of the Living Dead
28 Days Later
The distribution of these movies genre-wise is also something I’m surprised by. I didn’t think that I would rank any slasher up that highly, but Candyman and Texas Chain Saw Massacre were both so nuanced that I couldn’t help but be entranced by both movies. I love supernatural and psychological movies so that part makes sense.
The movie I ended up liking the least was Friday the 13th, which I gave a 7.2. After A Nightmare on Elm Street, I was hoping that one of the other great slasher series could give me something meaningful to bite into. Unfortunately, despite having a few nice moments, the movie didn’t hit me the way I wanted it to. It’s funny- before I started the marathon I didn’t want anything to do with the movie, but after being spoiled by some great ones, I started looking forward to the ones on my list. Congrats slasher movies – you got a fan in me.
Metacritic – User
My friends have always said I’m a film snob, and I’ve always maintained I’m not. But everytime I end up loving a horror movie (The Witch, It Follows, The Babadook…) it ends up being one of those divisive movies that gets good “critic” reviews but not so great user reviews. That’s what made the comparison of the major statistics so surprising.
My ratings were closest to the Metacritic – User ratings and also furthest away from the Metacritic – Meta ratings. It’s also interesting that that’s the only source that had a standard deviation well above 1. It seems like “critics” are more broad compared to a more “in tune” user base. I’d be interested in finding out why that’s the case, but that’s for another time when I have more data and better codding knowledge.
I also wanted to check out just how different my A+ movies differentiated from the way my counterparts ranked them. Maybe my self perceived greats were so good that they elicited similar reactions in others. I’ve excluded Nosferatu, Candyman, and Ringu because they have missing Metacritic data.
Metacritic Meta Difference
Metacritic User Difference
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Night of the Living Dead
The Silence of the Lambs
In the Mouth of Madness
28 Days Later
The differences are promising in a certain light. Though my final rating for most of the above titles is higher than my counterparts, their position comparative to other movies on the list remains similar. I may give higher ratings – but those ratings are in line with (for the most part) the trend of rating horror movies. The biggest exceptions to this rule so far are The Shining and In the Mouth of Madness. Both movies are cult classics and I appreciated their depths into darker, more Lovecraftian themes. After looking it up, I found out that they’re part of John Carpenter’s “Apocalypse Trilogy”. When I found out I still had one movie, Prince of Darkness, to watch I felt tremendous jubilation.
In a more general sense, the ratings for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Night of the Living Dead, The Silence of the Lambs, and The Lighthouse have the closest score distributions out all the movies. The Lighthouse is the most striking given that every source sans myself had given the movie an 8.3.
Review of Writing Style
When I first started writing reviews, I thought the process was overwhelming. I’ve always been someone who just focuses on plot and interpretation. I’ve always appreciated things like score and camera angles but never thought about how they impacted my viewing experience. Trying to find a way to incorporate discussion about all the elements was my first big hurdle.
My earlier reviews like , Review: The Hour of the Wolf, exhibit the issue clearly. When I mention certain things, they come off as static and feel more like statements that have to be there as opposed to streams of natural thought that followed from the previous one. This is mainly because I’m not the best at using commas, so translating my spoken thought into proper written work is… difficult to say the least. If you’ve been reading for a while, you may notice I use a lot of “-“‘s in my work. I don’t know how correct it is, but the feeling it creates feels natural.
Thankfully, my more recent reviews are more fluid, even if the difference isn’t as big as I wanted. Sentences extend for longer and there’s more voice and expression in everything. There’s probably a lot more, but I’m more interested in seeing where my writing is at in a year, so I’ll wait until then to take a deeper look.
Overall, this experience was great. Watching a movie and writing a review everyday was challenging but was also incredibly rewarding. I was forced to critically inspect each movie at multiple levels and ended up appreciating the craftsmanship at work.
The hardest part of the process was feeling like there was a constant deadline for each movie. Some of the movies hit emotional beats pretty hard and it was difficult to force myself to watch a movie the next day. Balancing a movie a day on top of work and everyday life was also challenging and something I should’ve prepared around more.
The more serious movies that were playing in theaters proved to be the hardest to review. Joker and The Lighthouse both moved me and brought up a lot of interesting points, but I couldn’t pause, write out my thoughts, and rewind to catch up with certain points like I could do back at home on my PS3.
I’m definitely planning on doing this challenge next year, but now I think I have some good changes to make the process more manageable. I definitely need more fun/cheesy movies to lighten the mood. Being scared and philosophically boomed is great but there’s a charm to less serious movies. At the very least, they would serve as a much needed change in current that would keep the experience fresh.
Sean S. Cunningham’s thriller, Friday the 13th, is a fun if rather inconsistent trip. The plot follows a group of college counselors who have come to Camp Crystal Lake, to help set up shop for a new camp in two weeks. Unknown to them however, is that the campsite has been the site of multiple horrors – horrors that await them as well.
The movie starts off in an interesting way, with the camera following the unsuspecting victims as opposed to a masked killer. Quickly the victim is slain, but the assailant is unseen. This is one of the more interesting aspects of the movie and keeps the “guess-the-villain” game interesting. The reveal was shocking and fun, even if by the end movie, the plot felt even more convoluted.
The special effects are fun and grizzly, in a shocking but comical way. There were quite a few “out-there” deaths and cadaver placements. Though over the top, they’re quite disturbing in nature, and help unsettle the viewer. Even though I didn’t think some of the scenes were scary, they were adventurous and kept some level of excitement at play.
However, in spite of some changes to the structure of the slasher story, the film feels painfully obvious at other times. There’s no attempt at characterization here, so even though the actors/actresses attempt to act shocked, there’s not a real sense of terror. Everything feels impersonal, but not in a way that requires any form of critical thinking- making the experience hollow. The twists are provocative and welcome when they do come, but they’re far too few and come far too late.
There are certainly thrills and a fun time to be found in Friday the 13th, but don’t come in expecting any significant nuance or depth. The special effects and the roller coaster that is the third act will keep you entertained in spite of the issues.
7.2/10. If you like slasher films or just want a thoughtless horror film with some cool and innovative kills – this movie should be a good time.
As a child nothing scared me more than “Bloody Mary.” I was only in elementary school when I heard the tale, and the “true stories” of the awful bloody things that happened to their second-cousins-brother’s friend (you know what I’m talking about) , and I promised myself I would never play the game. Even now as an adult, I respect that oath out of the fear of what could happen. After watching Bernard Rose’s supernatural-slasher, Candyman, I have one more name to add to the list of names never to utter in front of any mirror.
The story follows a pair of graduate students, Helen (Virginia Madsen) and Bernie (Kasi Lemmons) as they write their thesis on urban myths. As luck would have it, the Cabrini-Green housing project near them , has experienced a death, supposedly at the hands of the urban myth, Candyman. A murder and a community believing in that the murder was caused by a spirit? That sounds like the perfect location for students writing about urban myths and Helen quickly springs into action learning all about Candyman. Like Mary, he can be summoned by anyone who chants his name 5 times in front of a mirror. Upon being summoned he will brutally eviscerate the one who dared to summon him. Helen, being a firm non-believer, treats the rumor as a myth and proceeds through with the ritual. What follows is a tightly knit tale about gender, race, gentrification, and the mystical nature of belief.
What helps the story work is how real it feels. The community at Cabrini-Green aren’t caricatures of our worst fears of what the “hood” is. They’re heterogeneous and breathe life into a community that gets demonized, not only in the movie, but in real life as well. The shocking reality of social imbalances set in, and the way that characters react and approach different situations highlights those fears. When the cleaning ladies talk about how Ruthie Jean called the police twice about someone coming for her she gets ignored. It’s palpable and reveals just how warped the system has become. Violence becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in a community when they’re arbitrarily relegated to the periphery for no other reason than their skin color.
Furthermore, the juxtaposition of Helen, a young white women, and Bernie, a young black women going into a black community was magnificent. They respond to different scenarios in ways to highlight not only character differences, but also social differences. When they enter the downtrodden community, Helen’s primary concern is finding information about the myth, while Bernie scared for her life. The whole way their first interaction plays out during this act only amplifies the way their positions change the way they think about themselves and what can/cannot happen to them. This becomes even more interesting when Helen goes through multiple revelations that complicate her relation to both the community and the legend of Candyman.
Speaking of Helen, Virginia’s performance is nuanced and emotionally resounding. The long reaction shots on her eyes help convey the depth of her emotional state. She goes from confident, to resourceful, to mystified, to paranoid, and so on. At no point do any of these shifts feel out of place or odd. They all feel authentic and make emotional beats in the story feel that much more poignant. After doing some background reading, I appreciated the extra effort she put in. For certain scenes, she actually let herself get hypnotized so that she would look dazed and mystified. Although, after witnessing Tony Todd’s performance as Candyman, and hearing his authoritative but hypnotic voice, I could see how someone could be entranced by him. But make no mistake, he is sinister.
The film is also shot well. The use of long pan transition shots makes the dread feel like it’s moving along. But the most interesting thing the movie does is insert stills constantly. Iconic images from the movie appear at key moments. They don’t feel intrusive, but are provocative and help foreshadow the meaning and metaphysical positions of key characters.
TLDR:Candyman, is a well-woven tale that analyzes multiple pressing social issues without ever feeling preachy or patronizing. It’s provocative and aesthetically haunting.
Final Rating: 10/10. Anyone who wants to experience a beautiful commentary on social positions/issues while also being scary, in a more visceral way should watch this movie. It’s a masterpiece.
Wes Craven’s innovative take on the slasher genre, A Nightmare on Elm Street, follows the tale of high-school age adolescents who struggle to evade and outmaneuver the deranged child murderer, Fred Kreuger (Robert Englund). The worst part? He only appears in their incredibly life-like dreams.
Normally slashers are scary because they pose a series of characters who have to find a way to outwit a serial killer. This movie makes that tension even more palpable, because from the narrative to the visual effects, the character’s, and as a result the audience’s, sense of separation between reality and dream become harder to tell apart. This creates a constant sense of unease as we’re left to ask if the characters are really awake now or sleeping.
In particular a lot of the visual effects are seamless and help create a sense of immersion. The boundary between the real and dream world is constantly being transgressed. As a result, none of the characters ever feel safe. In school, in their beds, under their sheets, in the view of medical professionals- the movie slowly tears away at our sense of security.
I really loved how main character, Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), felt like a fully realized and fleshed out person. Unlike the traditional scream queen, she was fairly resourceful the whole film, and acted with a lot of patience and ingenuity. The whole time, I was genuinely rooting for her , because she felt a lot more like an action hero than a damsel in distress. Honestly, her biggest adversaries are the adults in her life- which highlights one of the bigger themes of the movie- the trauma and repression of growing up.
This is highlighted and demonstrated in great and subtle ways the entire movie. Most of the adults in the movie aren’t present in their children’s lives or actively try and inhibit them. An early victim is killed after having sex, almost as if a condemnation of trying to grow up. Constantly, the main group of characters tries to use their agency and are sidelined or disregarded by the adults, who put them in even more danger with their ineptitude.
The only real issues I had with the movie weren’t that serious. I felt like outside of Nancy, no other character received significant development. This wasn’t a big issue because following Nancy is interesting, but the deaths of other characters don’t feel as tragic as they could have. On top of this, the film has some thematic beats that are followed through and executed well, but kind of falter by the end of the film, making it less satisfying that it could’ve been.
TLDR:A Nightmare on Elm Street is a riveting take on the slasher genre- that adds a new dimension of scares by playing around with reality and the supernatural. Though some moments fall flat or feel disconnected, the story remains interesting throughout and have you questioning what’s really real.
Final Rating: 9.1/10. If you like slasher movies or strong female leads this is your movie. Or if you liked Inception and wondered what a more horror version of it would feel like – check this out.
When the narration started at the beginning of the movie I knew I was in for a rough ride. The expectation is set – you know what you’ll see will be heinous and grotesque- and then the camera goes from a series of camera flashes over a series of red disturbing images, before cutting away to a decomposing, grotesque cadaver sculpture. Through this immaculate progression, Tobe Hooper was able to set the pace and tone of the movie, while creating an initial shock to get the viewers ready for the slasher horror to come in his seminal independent movie, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
We follow a group a of young 20 something’s with no care in the world as they attempt to check on the graveyard of the titular character Sally’s (played by Marilyn Burns) grandfather. After they check and leave the station, they end up picking up a hitchhiker and everything starts to go downhill from there. The unsuspecting and happy-go-lucky group are forced to endure nightmarish events and visuals.
When everything goes to hell in a hand-basket, the camera really helps amplify the tension and induces a panicking feeling. The camera dips and turns, slants sideways, quickly zooms in, and constantly keeps the viewer on edge. It perfectly highlights the chaos and disorientation of later scenes, creating a morbid dread. The lighting is also incredibly interesting. A lot of the horror/scenes leading up to those moments have a lot of sunlight in them. The juxtaposition created with the grotesque and inhumane acts with a sunny background, really highlighted how nefarious and isolated the main environment is. It helps highlight the hopelessness, which along with some early foreshadowing, really makes some character fates tragic.
All of this is even more surprising, when you realize the movie, unlike its titles suggestion, isn’t especially gory. The violent scenes aren’t scary because there’s tons of blood and guts, or a lot of loud bumps. The movie is scary because it puts you in a paranoid and disturbed state of mind, and forces you to confront the way you’ve normalized and participated in “violent” actions.
The way the movie introduces it’s villain and their subsequent actions really drives the point home- humanity is capable of awful, violent things. From the way it parodies elements of family life, to its commentary on our relationship to food, the movie constantly makes it clear- humanity is its own worst enemy. What we see as depraved, is merely those undercurrents amplified. The movie honestly feels like it’s bringing to light the worst subconscious traits and tendencies we have as a species, and forcing us to really confront those things.
I felt scared and uncomfortable the whole time the film. From the opening scene to the very end, I never felt “safe.” That kind of feeling is rare and unsettling. It’s also really surprising because I saw Poltergeist earlier last week, and after realizing that Hooper directed both films, was in a positive shock. Some of the visual effects in that movie make a lot more sense now that I know it came from the same mind that made this nightmare. It also made me appreciate how well he, as a director, could capture different moments of horror.
Check out my spoiler thoughts where I go in more intensively on some themes and why the movie felt as unsettling as it did.
TLDR:The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is an incredibly frightening and grotesque look at the undercurrent of our psyches.
Final Rating: 10/10. Chilling. Innovative. Revolutionary. If you want to feel scared, genuinely scared and off balance, watch this movie. People who like slashers or artistic takes on the dark undercurrents of humanity should also check it out.
” Movies don’t create psychos, movies make psychos more creative! ” No sentiment could better describe, Wes Craven’s 1996 slasher film/satire Scream. The movie chronicles the journey of Sidney Prescott, portrayed by Neve Campbell, and her friends as her small town is struck by a series of gruesome and horrific murders.
The opening scene of the movie really sets the pace of the whole film and I was shocked by the end of the movie, at how brilliantly the themes of the beginning shot are kind of followed through. Casey Becker, played fantastically by Drew Barrymore, starts her night off nonchalantly, and playfully entertains the phone-calls from her soon to be killer. But within the first few moments, the mood turns sinister and a Dutch angle is used to exemplify the tonal shift- something’s wrong.
Skip to 30 seconds to see what I’m talking about.
This is repeated through the movie. There’s always a shift in perspective when something is off.
The visual effects were also amazing. Watching the movie, I never felt like I was watching something aged. The deaths were just as gruesome and I was blown away with how intricate some of the early deaths in the movie were portrayed.
Complimenting the narrative is one of the most imaginative scores I’ve heard in a horror film. There were a lot of songs that either served to foreshadow scenes there were to come or were just impactful because they didn’t feel like something that’d belong in a horror movie. For example, Youth of America, which sounded awesome, just felt really high octane like something you’d hear in an American Pie-esque movie, but after listening to the lyrics it just works.
Finally, the plot is amazing and filled with twists and turns, as you desperately try and figure out who the actual killer is. There were multiple times where I thought someone was the killer, just like certain characters on screen, but then the movie would do something to caution me against that belief. Then when I would least expect it, new information would be revealed that eroded my previous certainty in the situation. This describes the whole movie and that’s what it makes it genuinely scary. You honestly feel unnerved. You’re never certain what’s going to happen
The constant stream of horror references really reinforces the point and makes the movie that much more enjoyable if you consider yourself something of a horror buff. Whenever a movie is referenced, the movie usually tries to parody an element from the same which gives you cool Easter eggs. But more importantly, those allusions create expectations of certain rules characters should follow and constantly subverts them which only adds to the tension.
Unfortunately, the number of references also feels like kind of a problem at times. This may just be because I’m trying to watch the movie years later or because I haven”t seen a lot of the movies, but it almost felt like the movie kept trying to drop more and more names, and I became less interested because it started feeling too convoluted. This wasn’t a serious issue, but was something that I started feeling near the end of the movie.
Tone also felt a bit mishandled at some times- almost as if the transitions were a bit rough. The film does try to be scary, a satire, and a form of black comedy, but the serious feel of some of the scenes make comedic bits feel a bit out of place. It did work well most of the time, so I don’t think it’s too big of an issue.
TLDR:Scream is filled with twists and turns and brilliantly pokes fun of and subverts tropes. You may feel a bit lost, but no matter what you’re in for in for a pheonomenal mystery and a great time.
Final Rating: 9.3/10 One of the best I’ve seen. I was entertained the whole movie and didn’t know whodunit till the end.