Welcome to Ian and Blake’s annual Halloween series about a genre that does what few others can. This month, look out for weekly top-five horror lists–with blistering #hottakes below. 

  1. Trick ’r Treat (2008) / Southbound (2015)

There is nothing better than an anthology horror film that actually attempts to weave its stories within a grander wraparound narrative. Most find themselves framing the short films with characters telling each other stories, but a newer breed of anthology films is attempting to make the framing device just as compelling by truly weaving the vignettes in with the wraparound. Enter Trick ’r Treat, arguably the best anthology horror film made and Southbound, it’s sci-fi horror kin.

Both of these films make a compelling case for a renaissance of the sub-genre. It seems the key to making solid anthology horror is to build the mythos around a setting, like a small town (Trick ’r Treat) or a stretch of highway in the southern regions (Southbound). All I know is that these are both fun romps and considering each has 4-5 stories contained within, you get your money’s worth.

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  1. Shivers (1975) / Slither (2006)

If anthology horror is my favorite sub-genre, then body horror is probably my second favorite because it showcases a unique and profound blend of gore and commentary on sexuality and gender seldom found in most sub-genres. Body horror, however, is usually pinned on David Cronenberg’s entrance on the directorial scene with his terrific creature feature/body horror flick, Shivers. An institute/resort finds its inhabitant being penetrated by leech-looking parasites that turn the residents into sexual maniacs. If that sounds, on the surface, like a comedy then you will understand why I chose to pair this rather serious film with its comedic doppelganger, Slither.

James Gunn’s film riffs extremely hard on Shivers with its worm-like creatures and their hosts’ desire for flesh. However, it never takes itself too seriously, vying more for dark comedy over serious commentary. However, these films have much to say about gender politics and modern day consumption of product, whether it is beef or another human’s body.

  1. Suspiria (1977) / Berberian Sound Studio (2012)

tane-williams-bss-poster-redAnyone who is acquainted with Italian giallo horror knows that the key to the style is suffocating atmosphere, often lots of blood and—if you have seen any of Dario Argento’s giallos—the strangest color palette you will see on celluloid. Suspiria is coated in this deep red, bloody tint throughout the film. It’s basically occult horror set in a gothic ballet school. The film is chock full of inspired and surreal set pieces, murders and a nearly psychedelic musical score composed by Italian prog rock band, Goblin. It’s for these reasons that it often finds itself in many top horror film lists.

Everything that Argento’s masterpiece is able to accomplish with visuals, Berberian Sound Studio is able to accomplish through sound. The tension and atmosphere builds and builds as the a man finds himself creating the sound effects of increasingly violent and haunting scenes in an Italian giallo film of which the audience never gets a glimpse. I chose these two as a double feature, simply, because they are the kings of sight and sound when it comes to horror.

  1. Bug (2006) / Pontypool (2008)

One film features two people in a motel room trying to avoid government created insects that track their every move and try to control them and the other deals with a small Canadian town that is infected by a zombie outbreak caused by, well, language. Both films trade in the strange and obscure when it comes to subject matter.

However, it seems that one of the central themes that is running through both of these films is a breakdown in constructed society, relationships and communication. We take all of these things for granted, but what happens when something infects the very fabric of these very human elements? Anarchy and chaos for one. First goes trust, then comes violence and paranoia and, finally, as the breakdown widens, all of society begins to shut down and we begin to see just how fragile life on this earth really is. This is one of those double features that may have you giving your friends, families and lovers a side eye by the time it is over.

  1. Halloween (1978) / It Follows (2014)

John Carpenter’s classic slasher film is paired with what I consider to be a new horror classic that was just released wide last year. Both of them have similar narrative constructions, both have a synth-y soundtrack and the stalking villains in each take their sweet, precious time on the come up.

What makes this pairing almost ridiculously perfect is that It Follows took Halloween and turned it in on itself by making every character infected by the supernatural STD–both Michael Myers and Laurie Strode, victim and perpetrator. It took the grand archetypes created by John Carpenter and used them in such a fascinatingly, unique and original way. Both are superb films, not just horror films, and both deserve to be watched in tandem. Just remember, in the world of the slasher: penetration equals death.

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Ian Olson’s #Hottakes

5. The horror anthology is a subgenre possessed of enormous potential, the very reason it so rarely accomplishes anything gripping, groundbreaking, or otherwise interesting. Pulling together three writers and tasking them with crafting brief, creepy stories you’ll slot into some manner of interconnected narrative tapestry can produce astounding cinematic successes, but the vastly greater likelihood is a ramshackle assortment of beggarly vignettes with no organic unity linking them together.

Trick ’r Treat stands especially tall: its framing narrative is ingenious, weaving around each of the individual vignettes and not only incorporating them into a larger story, but even linking the outcome of one vignette to the pretext for another vignette, gliding through time to seamlessly bind together every element of the film in an inspiringly creative fashion. Southbound achieves great heights as well via the longitudinal lines of both concepts and characters that populate its dismal world. While the dark wonder of Halloween pumps Trick ’r Treat’s blood, Southbound propels relentlessly forward in its doomed cycle of Law, transgression, and punishment, hopelessly spinning its wheels in a graceless desert.

4. What horror subgenre is it that can expose the infection of our very physicality by the powers of sin and death? None other than body horror. It reminds us that, whatever else we may be, we are flesh: sacks of radically dependent, pulsating meat. And if there is a finer purveyor of body horror than David Cronenberg, I don’t know who it is. Cronenberg is a visionary of the terror bound up within our drives and the skin that situates us within a world that promises to fulfill those drives. The invasion of that interface by horrors that unravel our humanity cuts to the heart of the apostle Paul’s description of the New Adam’s battle against sarx–the vulnerability of image-bearers to fall prey to the needs and wants intrinsic to their existence as bodies.

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And that’s why I have a harder time with comedic takes on body horror. Sure, Slither is spine-tinglingly creepy fun, and I don’t want to dismiss that, but, if I’m going to aim for laughs after Shivers, I’d rather follow up with Dead Alive and remember a time when Peter Jackson wasn’t exploiting Tolkien and CGI and just enjoyed some good-natured, entrail-soaked fun.

3. Give it to Blake to aim for horror synesthesia this time around! No better pairing exists to showcase how the finest horror aesthetics can assault and derange the senses than these two. There really is no way to prepare yourself for the lurid hues of Suspiria: there is only holding your breath and bracing for impact. Follow Blake’s advice and dish both of these out at the next horror film mini-festival you throw!

2. Every would-be Babel is doomed to disintegrate. The cataclysm of Babel touches on both of these films, depicting both the attempt at microscopic control as well as the violent in-breaking of language. In sheer terms of triggers for zombie rampages, I can’t think of a more creative origin tale than Pontypool’s. Words can kill to make alive, or they can blister and crush for no other purpose, and this film renders visually the corruption of language we see at Babel and together both signal the instability inherent to our race’s bonds with one another. Hurray!

1bd45dabe3b5ff2b6144a69474faa8da1. It’s just not a horror flick list from Blake without Halloween, and here it is occupying the pole position! Not undeservedly so, however. Whatever clichés have sprang from the grave since its release, Halloween answers for none of them–it is its own beast, the purest sample of slasher virus conceivable. What rockets Halloween into greatness is not only its brutal simplicity but its unexplicated flirtations with the supernatural. How is Michael Meyers still alive? How can hate so animate a human being to kill without even the barest note of conscience to restrain him? Perhaps because he isn’t truly human after all…? Halloween silently poses these questions and then barricades the door against intrusion by any would-be answers. It Follows dehumanizes that conceit further and does so with a soundtrack that sounds like the score Carpenter liked too much to give away to the studio.