Toni Collette: The Matriarch of Modern Horror

The first, and last, time actress Toni Collette was nominated for an Academy Award, it was for her portrayal of single mother Lynn Sear in M. Night Shyamalan’s horror film The Sixth Sense. She’s earned and won numerous awards accolades, deservedly so, but it was horror that garnered her an Oscar-nomination. With awards season in full swing, now it’s another horror film that’s bringing Oscar buzz for the actress; Hereditary.

As mother Annie Graham, Collette delivers a powerhouse performance that earned massive acclaim upon release. Collette chooses her genre roles carefully, but when she does, it’s always a profound expression of the terrifying facets of motherhood.  The Academy would be crazy not to nominate Collette for her uncanny ability to tear apart the scenery the way Ari Aster needed for his feature debut, but at the very least it solidifies her as a fixture of modern horror.

Her first foray into genre fare, The Sixth Sense, found her exploring the exhaustive trials of raising a child alone. A working-class mother in Philadelphia, Lynn Sear struggles to be there for her son emotionally while she’s off ensuring she can support him financially. But boy does she try. Collette imbues Lynn with a layered performance as the mother desperately trying to protect her son, but at a loss as to how. She deftly conveys the ferocity of a mother’s love while bearing the weight of the pressures of filling the role of both father and mother, all the while her socially isolated son is battling demons she can’t see or understand. It all builds into the film’s most emotionally charged scene, in which mother and son tearfully find common ground and understanding as Cole finally opens up about his ghosts. The moment Collette, hands to her heart, breathlessly asks, “Do I make her proud?” is the moment that clinched her Oscar-nomination.

In 2006, Collette would switch gears for the psychological thriller The Night Listener. Based on the novel inspired by the Anthony Godby Johnson suspected hoax, Collette plays the adoptive mother, Donna, of an ailing boy that strikes up a relationship with a radio show host. The further that relationship is explored, the more it seems as though the boy and Donna may be one and the same. This exploration of motherhood is very, very different, and Collette again approaches it with the nuance that she does so well. Donna is both relatable and vulnerable, but with an underling layer of crazy that Collette would harness again later.

Five years after would bring the remake of beloved ‘80s horror comedy Fright Night, one that was received well by critics largely due to the performances. The horror comedy allowed Collette to take a much more lighthearted approach to single-motherhood as Jane Brewster, mom to teen son Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin). A supporting role meant solely to raise the emotional stakes for the hero, Collette can’t help but make her character feel fully realized even when she only appears in a handful of scenes. Her flirtation with new neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a wry wink that teens aren’t the only one with raging hormones. It’s matched by her fighting maternal instinct when Jerry reveals his true nature, too.

Collette was given much more to work with in 2015’s Krampus, in a central role that let her have fun with campy humor. As Sarah Engel, Collette delved into what it would mean to be an A-type control freak during a hectic holiday season with family disfunction reaching a boiling point. Of course, there’s also Krampus, evil elves, and dark holiday minions to contend with, and the humor of it all appealed to Collette. It was in Krampus that she really got to stretch out her comedic chops, further demonstrating what a chameleon she can be.

Even being familiar with Collette’s work, especially in horror, none of it really prepares for what she brings to Hereditary. Even if its horror ultimately doesn’t work for you, it’s hard not to feel Annie’s grief on a visceral level. It’s not just grief, either, but pure terror, dread, love, desperation, and every emotion in between. Collette plays a mother so very against the concept of what motherhood should or is expected to be. In a cast of tremendous performances, that Collette’s is a standout is no small feat. She reels you in, makes you invest in her character’s story, and then chills you to the bone. An irony, considering horror terrifies the actress.

Lynn Sear, Donna, Jane Brewster, Sarah Engel, and Annie Graham may be all connected by motherhood, but they’re each such widely different characters that could have only been brought to life by a skilled actress like Collette. She explores the complexities of being a mother and the catharsis that horror can bring in a nuanced way that few actors possess. Horror is often ignored by the Academy, but she’s made it difficult to overlook Hereditary. It’s fitting, considering how it will bring her full circle to her role in The Sixth Sense. More than just a scream queen, she’s become the matriarch of modern horror.

Hail Satan! Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina Is A Devilishly Dark Delight

Wicked Horror is the author of Hail Satan! Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina Is A Devilishly Dark Delight. Wicked Horror is the internet’s only horror fan site for free original horror movies, news, review & more.

Readers of a certain age will fondly remember Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. The frequently hilarious, often very sweet series was the must-watch TV show of our childhood and early teen years (full disclosure: I bought the box-set last year and binged the entire thing over about eight weekends. And I’m 30). The idea of Netflix soft rebooting it with a darker twist sent many spiraling. What would a new Sabrina for the Instagram age even look like? As it turns out, the streaming behemoth wasn’t bluffing. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, starring The Blackcoat Daughter‘s Kiernan Shipka as the titular teen witch, is darker, bloodier, and more frightening than the kitsch nineties/early 2000s sitcom could ever have imagined (yes, even with the terrifying Drell). The color palette is darker, too; loaded with deep blues, reds, and blacks, the only splash of brightness courtesy of Sabrina’s corn-yellow (and super on-trend) bob.

Unlike Melissa Joan Hart’s relentlessly goody-goody incarnation, this take on the beloved Archie comics character is no saint. In fact, she’s quite the opposite, staring down her dark baptism (during which young Sabrina will pledge her soul to Satan) as the series kicks off. Over ten tight, gripping episodes, we watch as Sabrina gradually messes everything in her life up, particularly her relationships with boyfriend Harvey (Ross Lynch, fresh off his revelatory performance as Jeffrey Dahmer in My Friend Dahmer) and aunts Hilda and Zelda (Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto respectively).

Remember that moment in the original show, when Sabrina lost her powers and her Quizmaster deadpanned that she felt terrible because she was a normal teenager again? That’s kind of what Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is like, only with better hair. She’s closer to a regular teenage girl; precocious, ambitious, smart, and more than a little selfish. She gets angry and she fights back. She has a voice, and she isn’t afraid to use it (“My name is Sabrina Spellman and I will NOT sign it away” — chills).

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a more modern incarnation, even if the world she inhabits, similar to fellow Archie show Riverdale, seems to exist in a kind of timeless limbo (the fleeting glimpse of a smartphone is genuinely shocking). And yet, by making her more human, more relatable, new Sabrina is also wildly more likeable than her previous incarnation — thanks in no small part to Shipka’s spirited performance in the lead role. Unafraid to get down and dirty for Satanic rituals, or while fleeing through the woodland in just a slip, her Sabrina is the furthest thing from a delicate flower.

To that end she, and the show itself, are also proudly (and loudly) feminist AF. Aside from starting a women’s support group in school (the acronym for which, amazingly, is WICCA — sign me right up), Sabrina defends her trans BFF Susie (played by non-binary actor Lachlan Watson) against homophobic bullies and consistently tries to find common ground with the resident mean girls at the magic academy she attends, led by the terrifying Prudence (she’s fabulous but she’s EVIL).

Also See: Ten Life Lessons We Learned from The Craft

Tati Gabrielle’s skilled performance as the Weird Girls leader is already being heralded as one of the best parts of the show, not least because she’s a black woman facing off against a diminutive white chick who, crucially, isn’t written as a one-note villain. Chilling Adventures doesn’t demonize Prudence, in much the same way it doesn’t lionize Sabrina. Rather, the two characters are given equal opportunity to grow, and to elicit sympathy which, as sad as it sounds, is still incredibly refreshing to see in a mainstream show.

The performances across the board are great, from Shipka to Gabrielle, Lynch, Watson, and, of course, Davis and Otto as the scene-stealing aunts. Davis ostensibly has the easier job as comic foil Hilda, but as the series progresses it becomes clear that the underlying issues with her elder sister are more worrisome than they first appear. Davis, as skilled at comedy as she is at emoting with her big, sad eyes, plays well off Otto’s cold, even borderline cruel Zelda.

Women were instrumental in getting Sabrina, the Teenage Witch made, from its direction to its writing to its overall production. Nowadays, it’s considered one of the most female-focused and feminist TV shows of all time (again, sad). Chilling Adventures of Sabrina takes that mantle and runs with it, ensuring its female characters are front and center once again — maybe even more so. It’s worth noting, too, that Axelle Carolyn, the mastermind behind the brilliant Tales of Halloween anthology as well as Soulmate, is a writer on the show, her presence keenly felt.

This isn’t some lip-service-paying, wannabe woke exercise in pleasing the masses either. Diversity is effortlessly and unflinchingly a part of the show’s DNA, from Susie’s bullied student to Sabrina’s hilariously deadpan gay cousin, and reluctant housemate, Ambrose. These elements aren’t signposted, or even thoroughly discussed (at least in the case of Ambrose), within the confines of the show. They exist and they feel normal simply because they should.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is imbued with an arch, jet-black sense of humor that has led many to (hilariously) criticize it for how the show portrays satanism and witchcraft as though it’s a fundamentalist religion. We watch Sabrina, her aunts, and the other members of their coven huddled in a dilapidated church listening to their leader’s sermon, uttering responses that put “unholy”  where usually a “holy” would be. There are also various rallying cries of “Hail Satan!” etc.

Anybody who grew up Catholic will recognize these scenarios from a million bored Sundays sat in church. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina ruthlessly skewers these conventions by making them dark, satanic, and evil. The earnestness of all this ceremony, the pomp and circumstance with which these rituals are conducted, just makes the whole thing so much funnier. To add to the hilarity, the Satanic Temple is suing Netflix for stealing their Baphomet statue (note: the Satanic Temple is not the Church of Satan) to use in the show.

Also See: Why Ginger Snaps is an Essential Feminist Horror Movie

Considering just how bright and light the previous Sabrina TV show was, it’s extra impressive that this take is as dark as it is. There’s murder, deception, bullying, hazing rituals, you name it — all presented with a sheen of brilliant, practical gore and expertly crafted SFX. One particular demon, who terrorizes the extended family in their sleep, is straight out of the Buffy playbook, but Chilling Adventures also bears comparison to the hugely underrated Todd and the Book of Pure Evil in its depiction of Satanism and the madness of worshiping the devil (though actual Satanists technically worship only themselves, forsaking all gods, but that’s a minor quibble).

Similar to sister show Riverdale, which it references in passing, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is shot through with that hazy, dark, baby Twin Peaks sheen that makes it seem simultaneously old-timey and super modern. The cinematography is often quite lovely, while the jaunty score wisely side-steps the super popular death-wave strains in favor of something altogether more traditional, and more foreboding.

The two shows might share a creator in Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, but Chilling Adventures of Sabrina feels more grown up, and yet defiantly sexed-down, in comparison to the wild antics of Archie and his crew. In fact, this show doesn’t even have an Archie (no, it’s not Harvey, so wash your damn mouth out if you’ve been throwing that disgraceful accusation around). It’s worlds away from its contemporary, even if Sabrina’s buddies do grate just a little bit, because it’s not trying to show us shirtless hunks playing guitar or teens hatching nefarious schemes.

Sabrina has great, reliable friends, but her relationship with Harvey is the sweet core of a hilariously sour show. Lynch’s Harvey is dopey, but he’s no fool. It’s clear how much he cares about and respects Sabrina (a moment when she has to undress in front of him is sensitively handled), and it’s impossible not to root for these two crazy kids to work things out as things rapidly get more difficult for them. As sad as it sounds, it’s refreshing to see a sweet, respectful, and healthy romantic relationship play out in one of these shows without the addition of sex games or massive public fall-outs.

Chilling Adventures‘ horror credentials are bonafide too, with references to everything from A Nightmare on Elm Street to Hocus Pocus cleverly threaded into the narrative so that nerds like us can pick up on them without the norms’ enjoyment being ruined. In fact, the only real issue with this lovely, deliciously dark little show, is that it being dropped on Netflix all at once means we can’t look forward to it every week like Riverdale, savoring every insane moment.

On the other hand, we can binge it over and over again while Archie and his buds are on yet another break, so give thanks to the dark lord for that.

The post Hail Satan! Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina Is A Devilishly Dark Delight appeared first on Wicked Horror.

Etiquette! At the Theater (A Brief Guide to Not Being THAT GUY)


There’s nothing better than a horror movie in the theater. The surround sound, the giant screen and comfy chairs. The movie is building up to a scare and the whole theater can feel it. The tension is mounting, the killer is ready to make his move when- “Sorry, excuse me, excuse me, just gonna squeeze […]

The post Etiquette! At the Theater (A Brief Guide to Not Being THAT GUY) appeared first on Horror News and Movie Reviews.

[Butcher Block] Mondo Shockumentary ‘Faces of Death’ Turns 40

Butcher Block is a weekly series celebrating horror’s most extreme films and the minds behind them. Dedicated to graphic gore and splatter, each week will explore the dark, the disturbed, and the depraved in horror, and the blood and guts involved. For the films that use special effects of gore as an art form, and the fans that revel in the carnage, this series is for you.

Growing up in the age of VHS and video stores it was a rite of passage for the hardcore to not only get ahold of Faces of Death, but be brave enough to watch it. By the mid-80s, the mondo shockumentary was the stuff of urban legend. A collection of deaths both human and animal hosted by Dr. Francis B. Gross, Faces of Death felt like something truly taboo. That it boasted to have been banned in more than 40 countries only further propelled this collection of violence and gruesome death into forbidden fruit territory. Initially released on November 10, 1978, it didn’t take long for Faces of Death to earn notoriety. Forty years later, this shockumentary doesn’t hold up to the reputation it once had, but its merits as an influential gamechanger is undeniable.

Faces of Death wasn’t the first mondo film, a name for exploitation documentary films that emphasized taboo subjects and often featured brutal animal deaths, and the first, Mondo Cane, served as inspiration. Writer/director John Alan Schwartz (he uses the pseudonym Conan LeCilaire) wanted to push the envelope further, though, and wanted to feature humans getting killed. He set about collecting as much actual footage of human death as he could find, most of which he purchased from news organizations. But what he cobbled together wasn’t enough to fill a feature length film. So, he decided to supplement the grotesque footage with staged death scenes.

The beheading, the electrocution, the alligator attack, and even the monkey brain scene that may or may not have inspired the dinner scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom all were shot in a month. The makeup effects were handled by special makeup effects artist Allan A. Apone, uncredited at the time. It’s these staged deaths that show their age the most; the effects don’t hold up as well and relegates the film as of its time. The monkey brain scene? Apone used cauliflower with food coloring and gelatin. Though the makeup effects may show its age, Apone has had an extensive, illustrious career with films like Suicide Squad and Captain America: Civil War under his belt since his early days working on the first two Faces of Death films.

After a hugely successful theatrical run in Japan, Faces of Death found its biggest success on VHS in America. The cover box may have stated it was banned in 46 countries, but the truth was that it was banned in only a handful. Not least of which was the UK, as it earned a spot on the prosecuted Video Nasties list. Shot and compiled on a budget of around $450,000, Faces of Death wound up earning $35 million in its home video frenzy. That profit meant that Faces of Death would continue on with seven additional sequels, though some were just “best of” reels of earlier films.

At least 40% of Faces of Death is staged, and the filmmaking techniques have become much more obvious in an internet-based age where death and violence is far more commonplace. We’re now much more desensitized to violence. But in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, there was nothing like it. Faces of Death paved the way for shocking horror to come, and traumatized youth from the comfort of their own homes.

Freddy’s Funhouse: Digging into Robert Englund’s Unmade Treatment for ‘Nightmare on Elm Street 3’

Freddy mania didn’t take off until the late ‘80s. It was in that period between Dream Warriors and The Dream Master that he broke through into the mainstream and cemented his place as a major cinematic icon. But the horror fans, those people not nearly connected with one another in the ‘80s as they are today, the ones who would rent every horror film they could get their hands on, who collected tapes and T-shirts and posters—in other words, Fangoria readers—they loved it. The magazine had championed Wes Craven from its debut, and while they were a little skeptical in their initial set report on A Nightmare on Elm Street, they celebrated the freshness it brought to a slasher formula that the magazine was never shy about calling stale and tired. The magazine played a massive role in promoting the burgeoning series, championing Elm Street—and Freddy as a character, in particular—by the time the first sequel was in development.

The original film spread by word of mouth. By 1985, many had caught up with the first movie. People knew what A Nightmare on Elm Street was, even if Freddy hadn’t become a massive icon yet. So, for some, those Fangoria fans especially, the two year wait between Freddy’s Revenge and Dream Warriors was excruciating. Fangoria, to their credit, smartly played to that and kept Freddy content running in the interim. One of the best examples of that coverage, easily, was an interview by Carr D’Angelo in The Bloody Best of Fangoria #6 with Robert Englund in the downtime between Nightmare 2 and Nightmare 3, just before the third movie was finally gearing up to enter production, in which he broke down his own rejected treatment for the sequel.

Englund’s treatment had been written before Wes Craven came aboard to write his wild first draft with Bruce Wagner, which over the course of many rewrites evolved into the fan-favorite Dream Warriors we all know and love. While Craven’s original script is a totally different beast from the movie we got, it’s still telling—for the most part—the same basic story.

That is definitely not the case with Robert Englund’s treatment for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Freddy’s Funhouse.

While it’s been reported a couple of times (he mentioned it in an interview last year that he had written it at one point) all that he really said about it at that time was that it had been planned to revolve around Tina’s sister. This Fango interview seems to be the only time Englund actually went into detail about what his treatment entailed.

Titled Freddy’s Funhouse, Englund’s third movie would have indeed revolved around Tina’s sister, but that would only have been the jumping off point for a much more ambitious and inventive story. According to Englund, the treatment began with the sister “being away at school and having horrible dreams about the specific carnage that happened to her sister. It bothers her so much that she decides to find out the truth about this whole thing.”

Naturally, her traumatic dreams bring her home to Springwood and to Elm Street, where the movie would have apparently taken on the more traditional look and feel of an Elm Street flick. Like the second movie, Nancy’s house would still be a key component and is—in fact—the genesis for the title. “The title of my script was Freddy’s Funhouse,Englund noted in the interview, “because Freddy has booby-trapped the Nightmare house’s dreamscape. It’s like Freddy’s own demented art direction mindset of the house’s interior—like a carnival’s funhouse, madhouse or spookhouse, but with all the debris and detritus of the prior movies lying around.”

With that in mind, though it’s not booby-trapped, it’s worth noting that Dream Warriors did wind up heavily featuring a nightmare version of the house from the first two films.

Englund, who has always been a fan of the idea of a prequel going back to explore Krueger’s days as the Springwood Slasher, naturally included some of that into his treatment as well. “The film would open with her going through all the microfilm at the local library, and the newspaper clippings pertaining to both Nightmare on Elm Street and Nightmare on Elm Street 2, as well as some local news station footage of Freddy on the City Hall steps with his lawyers after he got off from the very first case. So you would see me playing Freddy as this disgusting janitorial Lee Harvey Oswald-type. I liked that sense of summation. Maybe we’ll still do something like that.”

Englund wanted his story to reflect the unnerving phenomena that had sparked the inspiration for Nightmare on Elm Street as a whole. Thinking back on the series, it’s actually incredible that no one has ever actually done that in any of the later sequels, or even tie-in novels or comics. Although, on the other hand, it introduces another disturbing element to the series to start making actual references to real-life instances of sleep-related deaths.

The actor also noted in the interview that he just wanted to go bananas with the third act. “The story was OK but I didn’t have an ending. I got it right up to the ending, but I didn’t know where it would go, so I opted for a David Cronenberg type of ending. I think that’s one of the things that hurt me, although the producers really loved one of my ideas. I had the characters coming out of the dreams, waking each other up and writing down everything they had seen so that when they went back into the dreamscape, they could hide weapons to use against Freddy.”

That is actually a great idea, the notion of using a dream journal as a way of fighting back against Freddy. Even now, the concept of a dream journal is sort of the last dream-related thing that the franchise has yet to find a way to exploit. Englund noted that the producers loved this aspect in particular, saying that they said, “’Ooh, we love it,’ so they’ll probably borrow that idea.”

The idea did not make it into Dream Warriors, nor any of the later Elm Street films. However, an incredibly similar concept does come into play in a major way in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, which was indeed produced by one of the Nightmare producers, Michael S. Murphey. So it’s still entirely possible that Englund could have been right about that.

Ultimately, it sounds like the producers weren’t sold on Englund’s idea for Freddy’s Funhouse in general, though it’s hard to say exactly what kept it from being made. On an obvious level, it does sound like it probably would have been expensive, so if there’s anything that kept it from happening, it’s likely that. Even at the time of the interview, Englund had absolutely no hard feelings about the producers passing on the story because, as he said, “Wes Craven coming back to write it sure makes me happy.”

One of the most fascinating things about this treatment in general is the idea of Englund writing it before “Mainstream Freddy” took off. The Krueger of the first two movies is still very dark, very far from the comedic, easily digestible villain who would start appearing on MTV and have his own hotline around the time of Nightmare 4. The idea of Englund working with that early, sinister, shadowed Freddy on a creative level is kind of fascinating.

While Englund’s treatment boasts some great ideas, we can’t be too sad it never saw the light of day because we eventually got A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, the most celebrated sequel of the franchise and probably one of the most beloved horror sequels of all time. Still, it’s impossible not to be excited at the prospect of an Elm Street sequel conceived by the man in the sweater himself. Even if it never happened, it’s fantastic to see Englund’s love (and ownership) of the character was established so early on, and so deeply that he wanted to try his hand at telling one of these stories himself.

Friends ‘Til the End: 30 Years of ‘Child’s Play’!

Of all the horror icons born of the ‘80s, it’s pint-sized killer doll Chucky that’s still thriving. Between a new TV series in the works by the original creators and an unaffiliated reboot looming, Chucky’s lust for blood remains as strong as it was 30 years ago, when Child’s Play stabbed its way into theaters on November 9, 1988. The low budget horror feature not only won the box office upon release, but launched an enduring franchise with an impressive talent for maintaining continuity, a rarity among horror franchises. It wasn’t just the iconic Chucky that made Child’s Play such a long-lasting hit, though, but the cast of talented actors, an innovative special effects and makeup team, and an incredible roster of creative talent.

Inspired by his father’s work in advertising during the Cabbage Patch Dolls craze, Don Mancini wrote the script for Child’s Play while in college at UCLA. Only it was titled Batteries Not Included and was much more psychological in its horror as it satirized how marketing affecting children.  Enter executive producer David Kirschner, who had just completed work on An American Tail for Steven Spielberg and was looking to break free from animation. After reading the book The Dollhouse Murders, he was seeking something with dolls specifically. Eventually, once Mancini’s script started to get passed around, word got out that Spielberg was already working on a film with that very title, so it was changed to Blood Buddy, and it finally found its way into Kirschner’s hands.

Blood Buddy drew a lot of inspiration from Magic, in which the doll wasn’t the actual killer but more representative of the twisted psychology of its owner. Even the large head of the doll was a nod to Fats. But there needed to be a way to become more emotionally invested in Karen and Andy Barclay’s story. This is where director Tom Holland (Fright Night) came in, making key changes that would alter the trajectory of Chucky’s story for the better. Between new screenwriter John Lafia and Holland, the killer doll transitioned from Buddy to Chucky, and became a literal killer doll thanks to voodoo. Holland also pushed up the reveal of Chucky, not keeping the action relegated to the third act.

Between the story changes and Kirschner’s drawing of the doll, based on Mancini’s detailed description in his original screenplay, the next step was to bring this doll to life. Kirschner enlisted special makeup effects artist Kevin Yagher (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) to create Chucky. Though the movie’s monster is only 2-feet tall, the creation of Chucky was an arduous task for the team. This was low budget, practical effect driven feature when animatronics was still at its infancy, causing Yagher and his team to really invent a lot of the effects as they went. If the complexities of the mechanisms involved wasn’t enough, Chucky’s appearance began to morph as the narrative progressed; he became more humanlike the longer he remained in the doll’s body.

Chucky wasn’t all animatronics and puppeteering, though the brilliant work from the makeup and effects team can’t be applauded enough, he was also brought to life by actors. Actor Ed Gale, who made his debut as Howard in Howard the Duck, delivered amazing work as Chucky’s stunt double that hasn’t gotten enough credit in the decades since the film’s release. Gale actually studied the movements of the animatronic and puppet iterations of Chucky, and emulated that in his performance for consistency. It also meant that an identical set scaled 30% larger had to be constructed to keep it proportionate.

Of course, the final component to Chucky is that of actor Brad Dourif. Holland pulled Dourif in after having worked with him on Fatal Beauty. Well, at least the opening scene that featured Chucky in his human form. After that, the doll was voiced by a female. But an abysmal test screening made clear that changes had to be made prior to release. Kirschner brought Mancini back into the fold for the editing process. 30 minutes of footage was cut to make for a much more streamlined story, but more importantly, Dourif was brought back to voice Chucky the entire way through. His voice makes Chucky.

Playing against the intense mania of Dourif’s performance was a fantastic, small cast of Alex Vincent, Catherine Hicks, and Chris Sarandon, who all contributed to making Chucky believable while bringing the heart to the story. Chucky may have captured the fandom, but the pure innocence of young Andy Barclay makes for a perfect counterbalance.

Child’s Play wasn’t an easy film to make, but it was one where every facet of the filmmaking process was at their best. It’s difficult to make an inanimate object like a doll scary, but Child’s Play succeeded. Very few moments are as unnerving as the one in which Karen Barclay discovers Chucky’s batteries never left the packaging, therefore her son’s toy has been operating on its own. The strength of Chucky’s origin meant that the killer doll returned for 6 sequels, plus more on the way. It doesn’t even begin to cover what a pop culture phenomenon the horror icon has become in the decades since release. Here’s to 30 more years and new adventures with Chucky. We’re friends ‘til the end, remember?

Vogue Writer Slams Horror: “Where Have All the Good Horror Movies Gone?”

Remember when horror was good?” asks Vogue writer Taylor Antrim, who proclaims 2018 void of any good horror movies in an article published this week, yet still works in mentions of Hereditary and A Quiet Place – the latter of which he calls a “thriller”. Sigh.

We didn’t even get a decent shark movie this year,” he bolsters like that’s some kind of quantifiable statistic over the past 100 years of cinema. (The funny thing is, the fact that we even did get a mega budget shark blockbuster with The Meg actually shows how huge horror is right now.)

The writer then slams Halloween, before he comically tells readers to watch Revenge, which, I hate to break it to him, came out this year. Remember when horror was good? Like, you mean right now? In this very moment we’re living inside of?

Then, Suspiria is removed from the equation. “Suspiria is not forgettable. Nor is it, I hasten to say, much of a horror film, despite being a remake of one.” He suggests that a horror movie isn’t a horror movie unless it has “an element of fun, of dark delight,” and excludes Suspiria because it wasn’t fun nor did he understand the finale. Must be a “thriller,” eh?

Typical for pieces of this sort, the article has no clear point and builds up to nothing; mostly, it’s supported by the writer’s viewing of WinchesterThe Nun and Slender Man, three not-so-great films that offer only a fraction of horror that was put on display this year. Of course, as most horror fans are aware, the good has far outweighed the bad in 2018.

(And even the baddest, it’s worth pointing out, have proven quite successful.)

But I digress. This feels like yet another mainstream hit piece, one that perhaps it’s best to give no attention to at all. But it’s hard not to. After all, this is exactly the kind of bullshit we horror fans constantly have to deal with. You see, when horror is having a down year, they’ll write, “Horror is dead.” When it’s hot, like it has been for the past few years, they quantify it and remove films to fit their narrative. We’re low class to them. There’s no way a horror film could be so good that it deserves awards… right?

You just watch… when Toni Collette gets nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in Hereditary, and Ari Aster gets nominated for “Best Director” and “Best Original Screenplay”, the mainstream media will start the narrative that Hereditary is not a horror movie. Buckle your seatbelts, cause it’s going to happen. Hell, it already has.

Digressing yet again, I don’t understand how one of the biggest magazines on the planet can allow someone to write a horror hit piece having just seen a small handful of horror films?

Outside of the aforementioned Hereditary, A Quiet Place (a monster movie that’s without question a *horror* movie), Revenge and Suspiria (that’s a lot of great horror right there, no?), there have been dozens of phenomenal genre films released in 2018. So much so that I’m having a difficult time narrowing down the best of the year. While you may debate me on the merits of The Predator or this weekend’s Overlord (both extremely fun genre films), I offer you the following counter: Annihilation, Mandy, The Ritual, The Night Comes For Us, One Cut of the Dead, Thoroughbreds, Before I Wake, Ghost Stories, Blue My Mind, What Keeps You Alive, Tumbbad, Lowlife, Possum, Let the Corpses Tan, Terrified, and The Witch In the Window.

I’m sure there’s even more, but let’s not pretend we’re not in the middle of a major horror renaissance. We are. We absolutely are. And true fans of the genre see that clear as day.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

A Fuzzy ‘Friday the 13th’: Re-Examining the Horror of… ‘Naughty Bear’!?

Inspired by slasher films and games such as Grand Theft Auto and Manhunt, there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Naughty Bear. Either that, or you’ve subconsciously erased it from memory. We wouldn’t blame you, to be honest.

Snark aside, developer Artificial Mind and Movement had quite a fun premise on its hands with Naughty Bear. It’s a game which takes place within a kid’s TV show where a colony of bears frolic around a fairytale forest. Thing is, one of these bears is not like the others, lacking their same perfect stitching or vibrant colors.

The game starts with the titular Naughty Bear being late to a party. The battle-worn teddy decides that he no longer wants to be an outsider and so goes out of his way to make a present. He’s turned over a new leaf. However, when the others bears get a glimpse of his gift (which is confusing, as its a generic box with a bowtie) they humiliate him.

So, as is tradition in children’s TV shows, they eventually overcome their differences and viewers come away enlightened, having learned an important lesson and conflict resolution and acceptance. Actually, no, Naughty returns his shack, grabs a machete, and immediately goes about enacting his revenge.

If there’s one thing the game gets right, it’s the fun juxtaposition of this cartoon world with the kind of murderous rampage reserved for films such as Friday the 13th. Bizarrely, there are also a number of parallels between Naughty Bear and the recent Friday the 13th video game. The way you hunt down enemies while trying not to fall for their diversions reminded me of stalking camp counselors in last year’s multiplayer murder sim.

The bears will try to flee from Naughty, running to cars and boats. Others will shut themselves inside, barricade doors, try to call the cops, or, as a last resort, attack with whatever weapons they can find though it’s often not enough. Even the way executions are carried out all echo Friday the 13th. To make things just that little more intriguing, the developer of Naughty Bear would later become Behaviour Interactive, the team behind Friday the 13th’s gaming rival, Dead By Daylight.

Sadly, Naughty Bear wasn’t much fun to play. The repetitive loop of chasing bears and killing them off quickly wore thin with little variation to keep players hooked. The game’s focus on score-chasing and keeping a multiplier running seemed completely at odds with how the game was being pitched. Each stage would rapidly turn into a massacre with stealth going completely out the window.

Playful in premise yet sloppy in its execution, Naughty Bear reviewed in the low 40s when it launched more than eight years ago on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It, therefore, came as a surprise when 505 Games published a sequel in 2012, even if it was download-only. It’s not a game we’d strongly recommend though is definitely worth picking up if you want to see how it translates slasher tropes and have a few bucks to burn.

10 Chilling Horror Shorts to Binge Right Now

Not only are horror short films great for quick bursts of terror that don’t take much time away from busy schedules, but they’ve become a major platform for aspiring feature directors. Horror shorts don’t have to just be relegated to the month of October, either. While Hulu and Netflix both featured curated horror shorts in their overwhelming Halloween programming, there’s no wrong time to enjoy. Here are 10 great horror short films that elicit chills and thrills, and some that even make you laugh.


Writer/directors Todd Spence and Zak White previously charmed with a spooky riff on nostalgic board game Mystery Date in Your Date is Here, but their latest horror short takes a very different approach to the horrors of childhood. In Mikus, Pete finds an old box of drawings and toys from his childhood. Pulling out a life-size cutout of his imaginary childhood friend prompts a huge grin, but that quickly fades when…well, you’ll see.

The Maiden

Director Michael Chaves is on the verge of becoming a big name in horror with The Curse of La Llorona and The Conjuring 3 on the way, and his horror short The Maiden is what put him on the map. The short takes a familiar haunted house setting and gives it a fresh spin with a unique perspective; a realtor that is willing to do what it takes to sell the house. Even with familiar tropes at play, that underlying dark humor bodes well for Chaves’ upcoming slate of horror.

Special Day

Director Teal Greyhavens and writer Nikolai von Keller turn a birthday party into the stuff of nightmares in Special Day. Emily’s 18th birthday celebration brings her family together for congratulations and cake, and a disturbing family secret too. This short has a great build up of tension, but more than that it delivers a unique mythology that leaves you wanting more.


It didn’t take long for writer/director/producer Santiago Menghini’s latest horror short, Milk, to make its way through the film festival circuit before it was announced that James Wan would be producing a feature length adaptation. Before that was Intruders, Menchini’s stunning short that plays like an anthology connected by one sinister entity that wreaks havoc on a neighborhood. Menghini also handled some of the visual effects, further demonstrating this is one up and coming talent to keep our eyes on.


This short is effective on the scares, but even more so if you happen to have an Echo or any smart speaker that’s behaved strangely before. It was recently announced that Amblin Partners was closing a deal to turn this short into a feature length film with its director, Julian Terry, to helm the movie. That’s not the only short of his to receive the feature length treatment either, as a full feature of his short They Hear It is also in the works.

Death Metal

Written and directed by Chris McInroy, this proves that not all horror shorts revolve around the scares. A metalhead receives a family heirloom in the form of a Satanic guitar, and immediately breaks all of the rules contingent upon its receipt. Its humor is only rivaled by the excessive gore and blood flow. So. Much. Blood. Play with the volume up.


This short by director Paul Gandersman and writer Peter S. Hall plays like a condensed episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? But a bit bleaker. An aspiring teen witch conducts a ritual to enact vengeance upon the girls she feels has wronged her. Horror teaches us many things, not least of which is to be careful what you wish for. Major bonus points for cool creature design.

Tickle Monster

Sometimes all it takes is 5 minutes to find effective horror in the most bizarre places. Tickle Monster, by writer/director Remi Weekes seems absolutely silly. Until it’s not. The less said the better about this one, except that it takes a crazy concept about tickling and turns it into something completely unexpected. It works.

Closet Space

By now everyone is familiar with Lights Out and the short that inspired it, but there’s a bunch of shorts that director David F. Sandberg filmed with his wife Lotta Losten that are worth bingeing. Closet Space changes up the effective jump scares for a little Twilight Zone inspired dark humor. Sandberg and Losten star as the couple that discovers a bizarre, microcosmic reality within the closet of their new apartment. The doll of the Lights Out apparition makes an appearance. Or two.


This Australian short film by filmmakers Craig D. Foster and Emma McKenna also boasts creature effects by Odd Studio, who won an Oscar and BAFTA in 2016 for their outstanding special effects make-up in Mad Max: Fury Road. More importantly, this short is an absolute blast and feels like an episode of Tales from the Crypt. Poor Ralph is stuck working late at the office, but he really needs to make it home before nightfall if he wants to keep his secrets locked away.

One of Horror’s Most Terrifying Love Stories: ‘Magic’ Turns 40!

The phrase “they don’t make them like they used to” is thrown around a lot in the context of nostalgia, but in the case of the first teaser for Magic, it’s accurate. Imagine sitting around the TV with your family and having this TV spot popping up on screen. The simple but terrifying ad didn’t give away much about the actual plot, but it did instill a lot of traumatic nightmares for any young viewers that happened to catch it. The TV spot was so effective that it’s scarier than the actual film; it wasn’t the straightforward horror story the teaser indicated but much more a psychological thriller. Released 40 years ago on November 8, 1978, Magic is an underappreciated classic and one of horror’s most unnerving love stories.

Written by William Goldman (The Stepford Wives, The Princess Bride), adapted from the novel he also wrote, Magic revolves around a ventriloquist seeking to renew a relationship with his former high school sweetheart. The only problem is that his dummy is the jealous type. That ventriloquist, Corky, is played by Anthony Hopkins. Corky opens the film as an aspiring magician, but lacks the charisma of his mentor Merlin. Socially awkward, Corky chokes on stage and his subsequent outburst toward a less than enthusiastic audience has his ailing mentor warning him to develop a better stage presence and gimmick. Cut to a year later, where Corky has completely turned his show around thanks to the addition of ventriloquism in his act, with his dummy Fats. The act is so compelling that his agent Ben Greene (Burgess Meredith) has lined up a great TV deal for him. But the network requires a medical exam to close the deal, and Corky runs back home to the Catskills out of fear. Corky’s fears are amplified when he renews a relationship with married woman Peggy (Ann-Margret), and Fats isn’t thrilled about it.

Unlike the ambiguity in Goldman’s source novel, the film doesn’t make any attempts to conceal the truth about Fats. Hopkins plays Corky always on the edge, always manic and nervous save for the fleeting moments of calm happiness with Peggy. Fats even looks just like Corky, and is voiced by Hopkins too. Fats is a manifestation of Corky’s id, and Corky is aware of his mental instability from the get-go.

There’s a sadness in Corky’s desire for normalcy despite knowing Fats won’t ever let him have it, but the true tragedy is the way Peggy is caught in the middle. Stuck in an unhappy marriage, it’s easy for her to be manipulated by Corky. Corky is always a means of escaping not just her marriage but her small town, making it easier to turn a blind eye to his erratic behavior. Ann-Margret has the tough job of playing the straight-man against Hopkin’s manic man losing his grip, and she pulls it off well. According to Goldman, he wrote Peggy with her in mind.

Though many names were tied to this film prior to production, from Roman Polanski to Steven Spielberg, the directorial duties ultimately fell to Richard Attenborough, the director behind Gandhi and A Bridge Too Far, but who fans will ultimately recognize as Professor John Hammond from Jurassic Park. Throw in the talents of cinematographer Victor J. Kemper (Audrey Rose, Xanadu, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure) and a score by legendary composer Jerry Smith (Alien, Gremlins, Poltergeist), and Magic became an impressive film inside and out.

Magic wasn’t the first time that a ventriloquist was terrorized by his own dummy, but it’s emphasis on the psychological, Hopkins’ intense performance, and Attenborough opting for straightforward tension without a hint of camp elevated the film into something that holds up well, even if nowhere close to being as scary as the initial TV spot suggests. Moreover, Magic served as direct inspiration for Don Mancini’s original screenplay for Child’s Play, fittingly released almost a decade apart to the day. The story of Corky and Fats may not be as well known, but the influence of Magic is still strong in horror even 40 years later.