The Friday Night Horror Movie: Barbarian (2022)

barbarian movie

It is very rare that a movie surprises me. Rarer still is a horror movie that surprises. Barbarian surprised me at least twice and left me breathless on multiple occasions. We’re not talking jump scares – though there are plenty of those – or just general weirdness (though it is a deeply weird movie). Barbarian surprised me in ways that supplanted my expectations. In the best possible ways. That it doesn’t quite stick its ending, and that its Horror was a little too much for me, doesn’t change the fact that this is exactly the kind of horror movie I love to see.

It is also a movie that truly is best seen completely cold, so I will do my best to remain vague and spoiler free.

Tess (Georgina Campbell) travels to Detroit for a job interview. She books an Airbnb and arrives late at night in the pouring rain. The lockbox opens but is missing the key. The rental agency does not answer the phone. Just as she’s leaving, a man, Keith (Bill Skarsgård), opens the door. Turns out he also rented the place for the night.

Being in a strange city, in the middle of the night, during a rainstorm, finding herself stuck staying in a house with a complete stranger doesn’t exactly make Tess feel comfortable. The film has a lot of interesting things to say about the ways men and women must travel through the world in different ways to feel safe.

It also does a great job of building tension around this situation. We (and therefore Tess) are never quite sure whether or not Keith is a potential friend or a danger. In order to not spoil what comes next I’ll fast forward to a second story the movie tells.

But let’s just say this is a horror story.

AJ Gilbrade (Justin Long) is a working actor – not quite rich and famous yet, but he’s getting there. He’s introduced driving a convertible down an ocean-side highway singing along to Donovan’s “Riki Tiki Tavi.” A phone calls interrupts this happy moment and he’s informed that his costar on his upcoming television series has accused him of sexual misconduct.

Losing that job and basically becoming untouchable to everyone else, AJ realizes he needs to liquidate some things fast in order to have the money to live on while things get sorted. Queue him traveling to Detroit to sell one of his rental properties.

Guess which house is his?

The two stories intersect but again it goes in directions I was not expecting at all.

Justin Long is a likable actor and we naturally assume that his declarations of innocence over the misconduct allegations are true. The film teases out what actually happened in some really interesting ways, and makes some comparisons to…well, again I don’t want to spoil anything.

I’ll say no more about the plot. Writer/director Zach Cregger has created a most interesting story and found ways to interject something new into some pretty familiar-sounding horror tropes. As a director, he creates a good sense of space and an eerie sense of mood and creeping horror.

The jump scares mostly worked on me but they were the least interesting aspects of the film. Likewise, the actual horror parts of the film, by which I mean the more atypical scary parts of the movie (sorry, I do want to be vague and that makes it difficult to say what I mean just here) were a little too over the top for my tastes. But otherwise I completely fell for this film.

Final Destination (2000)

final destination poster

A group of American high school kids boards a plane headed for Paris for a few weeks. One of them, Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) falls asleep before the plane takes off and has a vision of the plane exploding mid-air. He awakens with a fright and freaks the heck out. One of his classmates, Carter (Kerry Smith) aggressively tells Alex to chill out and a fight ensues. In the aftermath Alex, Carter, and a few others including Clear Rivers (Ali Larter), Billy Hitchcock (Sean William Scott), and their teacher Mrs. Lewton (Kristen Cloke) are all kicked off the plane.

Sure enough, moments later the plane takes off and then explodes killing everyone on board. Since Alex told everyone the plane was going to explode before it did, the FBI thinks he must have been involved. Everyone at his high school just thinks he’s a freak. Only Clear Rivers believes him.

Soon enough some of the others who survived the explosion begin to die under mysterious circumstances. A visit to the morgue and a chat with Tony Todd reveal that when you cheat death, death comes at you. Surmising that the kids are now dying in the order they would have died on the plane (by using the seating plan and extrapolating where the explosion occurred) Alex figures out who will be next and tries to save them.

He’s not very good at it.

I knew this movie was gonna be dumb, but I had no idea what dumb depths it would dumb down to. I don’t usually nitpick movies over little details. I don’t mind small plot holes. But I was shaking my head over this one within the first few minutes.

The whole point of these movies (and there are a lot of them) is to create larger and more complex methods for the kids to be killed – call them Rube Goldbert deathtraps. I’ve not seen any of the sequels, but apparently, they get really ridiculous. Here they are pretty fun, but not particularly impressive. The last one goes over the top in a way I won’t spoil, but that I found really enjoyable to watch.

I don’t know why I’ve never seen this film until now. I was totally on board with the post Scream cycle of self-aware horror films and this came out at a time when I watched just about every movie that came to my local cineplex, but I must have missed this one. I’m glad I was able to catch up with it now, and I’ll probably eventually get to the sequels, but I can’t say I’ll be in a hurry to do so.

The Friday Night Horror Movie: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

the texas chainsaw massacre part 2

The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the best horror movies of the 1970s. It is gritty, dirty, and full of Texas sweat. Like a lot of films from that decade, it is documentarian in style, not realistic exactly but textile, you can feel it in your bones – the heat, the dirt, the blood.

In contrast, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is totally ’80s in every way. It is a neon, day glow, music video of a film that doesn’t take anything seriously except for its attempts to have serious fun with the material.

It stars Dennis Hopper as Lt. Boude “Lefty” Enright the uncle of two of the victims of the first film. The movie is set thirteen years after the original film and an opening scrawl informs us that the crazed chainsaw-wielding cannibals from the first film are still on the loose and on the move. We see them chase down a couple of frat boys driving recklessly on the highway and cut them up.

The boys were on the telephone with a local radio DJ, “Stretch” (Caroline Williams) when the attack occurs and she recorded the entire incident. She takes the recording to Lefty and the two of them go on the search for the killers.

Before long they are trapped inside an underground funhouse full of leftover amusement park junk, skeletons, skulls, and dismembered corpses.

Leatherface (Bill Johnson) falls in love with Stretch, while his family members chop up humans and turn the meat into chile to sell for the famous Oklahoma University vs Texas football game.

It is hard to explain just how over-the-top nutso this film really is. It is intentionally ridiculous, verging on camp. For the first twenty minutes or so I was really annoyed by it. I love the original film and this seemed like a terrible parody of it. Then I realized that was kind of the point and learned to sit back and enjoy myself.

More or less. It really is a bit too much. I can handle my gore pretty well, and I’m not opposed to using excess to create comedy. But eventually, it becomes boring. I was exhausted by the end.

At least Dennis Hopper seemed to be enjoying himself.

The Friday Night Horror Movie: Hell of the Living Dead (1980)

hell of the living dead poster

George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978) was a huge international success. It made over $1 million in Italy alone. In 1979 Lucio Fulci made an unofficial sequel, Zombi 2 (Dawn was titled Zombi in Italy). It was quite successful as well and for the next few years, the Italians began churning out one zombie film after another.

In 1980 Bruno Mattei got into the game with Hell of the Living Dead, aka Virus, aka Night of the Zombies, aka Zombie Creeping Flesh, aka half a dozen other things. It is, well it is a mess, but kind of a glorious, ridiculous, god-awful mess. It’s also a lot of fun in a late-night weekend kind of way.

The plot, such as it is, involves a research facility in Papua New Guinea that accidentally releases an experimental gas called “Operation Sweet Death” which turns the recently deceased into flesh-eating monsters.

The government sends in an elite SWAT team to take care of business. Along the way they run into two reporters and together, they make their way through the jungle, battling hordes of monsters, to the research facility to…well it’s never exactly clear what their ultimate goal is, but there sure takes a lot of gore-filled violence to get there.

Most of the plot makes very little sense. The dubbed dialogue is hilariously bad, and the acting is atrocious. There is a ton of very obvious stock footage of animals and natives thrown in to boost the run time. The score is by the very excellent band Goblin, but all of it is recycled from various other films.

The characters make ridiculous decisions after ridiculous decisions. Though early on they figure out the only way to kill the zombies is to shoot them in the head, they constantly shoot them everywhere but the brain pan. One guy liked to taunt them and dance around them for some reason. Whenever a zombie attacks the other characters literally just stand there for the longest time watching them eat their friends until finally decide to act. Etc,. etc.

I’ve seen a lot of bad horror movies. I’ve seen a lot of bad zombie movies. This is one of the worst ones I’ve ever seen. And yet, under the right circumstance, in the right mood this film kind of works.

Aftershock (2012)

aftershock movie poster

If you think Eli Roth is a terrible director (and he is), wait until you see him as an actor. For some reason, he is the lead in this really, really bad horror film set in the aftermath of an earthquake in Chile. No, wait, for half of the film’s run time it is set just before the earthquake where we watch a bunch of inane people do inane things while partying, or trying to get to a party. Then an earthquake happens and all sorts of horror begins, but it is so poorly done that the biggest shock of all is that it never seems to end.

In the nearly ten years since I watched Aftershock I had managed to remove this terrible film from my memory, but reading my review has brought it all back.

Foreign Film February: One On Top Of The Other (1969)

one on top of the other poster

While I obviously like horror films, I wouldn’t exactly call myself a super fan of the genre. I’m no horror hound who goes to see every horror film as soon as it is released. I’m not exactly a snob about it either, as there are plenty of really terrible horror films that I love. But for most of my life horror wasn’t necessarily something I set out to watch on a regular basis. I watched new horror films that were getting good reviews, and I tried to watch the classics, but weeks or even months would go by sometimes between my viewing of that genre.

Then sometime in the last few years, I started watching horror movies on Friday nights and that became the Friday Night Horror Movie and now I am seeking horror films on a regular basis. More than ever before I’m actually seeking out new horror films to watch. That’s allowed me to not only watch some of the classics that have been on my list for a while, but to find new films, or to dig deeper into certain directors’ catalogs.

Lucio Fulci is one of the godfathers of Italian horror. I’ve now seen 18 of his films. I wouldn’t consider any of them masterpieces. Some of them aren’t very good at all. They mostly slide into that good, but not great category, with bonus points being given to the great practical effects he uses for the large amounts of gore he likes to add to his films.

One On Top Of The Other is more of a crime film than a horror one. It feels like his attempt to remake Vertigo as a film noir with a copious amount of sleaze and a terrifically wonky jazz score.

A wealthy doctor has a sick wife and a pretty girlfriend. The wife dies and he gets a large insurance settlement. An anonymous tip leads him to a strip club where one of the dancers bears an incredible resemblance to his recently deceased wife. The police have been following him due to the insurance money and when they discover the doppelganger, well, things start to get hairy for our hero.

There are a lot of cool twists and turns in the story and it all looks and sounds good. But Fulci seems more interested in watching the women take off their clothes and get sexy with various men than he is in paying attention to the story. This is too bad because there is a pretty great film hidden underneath all the sleaze.

The Friday Night Horror Movie: Titane (2021)

titane poster

I watch a lot of movies and it is very rare that a movie genuinely surprises me. When you watch movies like I do you get used to the way most films work, the way they hit certain beats and behave in certain ways. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, sometimes it is comforting. But when a movie does come along and does something completely different it makes it all that more rewarding.

Titane completely knocked me out. It is completely and utterly surprising. I genuinely had no idea where it was going to go next. I’m not sure I loved where it always went. I’m not sure I didn’t, either. It is a film I’ll be thinking about for a few days to figure out what exactly I thought of it. But I loved not knowing what was coming next.

It is a film worth coming into not knowing anything about, so I won’t say much. It involves a girl who gets into an accident as a child and has a metal plate inserted into her skull. As an adult, she works as a dancer and after a rough night she goes on a long journey that takes her places you cannot believe.

It has been compared to a David Cronenberg film and that’s apt, but it is also very much its own thing. I watched Cronenberg’s recent Crimes of the Future directly before watching Titane and let me tell you they make for one freaky double feature.

Agathe Rousselle gives an absolutely astonishing, brave, bravura performance in the lead and Vincent Lindon is quite spectacular as well. He plays, well I’d get into spoiler territory if I said who he plays, but he’s really good.

It is a film that is exciting and repulsive – sometimes I couldn’t turn and other times I had to close my eyes. This is something I don’t want every film to do to me, but it sure is exciting when they do.

The Friday Night Horror Movie: Hellraiser (2022)

hellraiser 2022

I don’t know why I thought this would be good. I don’t really love the original, and while I did enjoy the sequel this franchise is just not something I’m all that interested in exploring. Yet, I have to admit I was intrigued by this reboot from Hulu. I don’t know why exactly, except that the idea of redoing the original in a more modern, even elevated way, sounded interesting. Last week I watched Prey, Hulu’s entry into the Predator franchise, and rather loved it so I decided to give this Hellraiser a try.

It is not good. As it is a reboot of the original the story follows fairly familiar tracks, but there is enough difference to keep it, well, not interesting, but at least it doesn’t feel like a retread. It follows Riley (a pretty great Odessa A’zion) a recovering addict who is struggling to pull it together. Needing rent money she agrees to follow her boyfriend Trevor (Drew Starkey) on a little robbery gig. Naturally, the thing they steal is the funky puzzle box. Then all, ahem, hell breaks loose.

I’m not sure familiar with all the lore associated with these films so I don’t know where this one breaks from tradition or adds to it. Here when you figure out the puzzle the swishes out a blade and cuts you. This unleashes the Cenobites upon you and changes the box into configuration 2. If you are holding the box when it has moved into configuration 6 then the Cenobites grant you a wish, or something.

The story is pretty dumb. The elevated aspect of the horror is that Riley is an addict and that makes it more harrowing, or something. The best part of the original is that it felt like a low-budget horror made with love and a renegade spirit. The Cenobites were strange and sexual – they are like S&M freaks turned up to 11. The gore was practical and very fleshy. Here the budget is bigger but it feels plastic. The Cenobite costumes are smooth and not at all terrifying. There is a lot of blood and gore, but it is mostly made from bad CGI and lacks the visceral feeling of the original.

What’s left feels more like the 8th sequel of a tired franchise made sometime in the late 1990s, not a modern reboot with something new to say.

The Friday Night Horror Movie C.H.U.D. (1984)

chud movie

The 1980s were a wild time for horror movies. The advent of home video and the rise of cable/satellite TV meant a massive uptick in potential viewership. No longer did low-budget horror movies have to rely on midnight movie screenings in large cities to make their money, there were now thousands of movie rental houses looking to fill up their shelf space, and dozens of new cable channels with time to fill. Horror Hounds have never let low budgets or shoddy effects keep them from watching a movie and so the 1980s were filled to the brim with horror movies of all shapes and sizes being churned out in straight-to-video releases.

C.H.U.D. actually received a theatrical release (at least in a limited capacity) and had a not terribly tiny budget of $1.25 million, but it is very much a movie of the ’80s. John Heard and Daniel Stern star as fashion photographers and soup kitchen operator who begin an investigation of the disappearance of numerous NYC homeless people. Stern’s character notices that the missing people were all underground dwellers, those who live in the various tunnels underneath the city.

At the same time, Bosch (Christopher Curry) a police Captain begins his own investigation despite the protests of his boss and a Nuclear Regulatory Commission goon (George Martin) both of whom are trying to cover up the disappearances.

What they find under the city are killer mutants known as C.H.U.D.s (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers) which – surprise surprise – were caused by the NRC goon dumping all kinds of industrial waste in those underground tunnels. It is all very silly and kind of dumb, but also charming in its own way.

It also stars Kim Greist (in her film debut) as Heard’s wife. She manages to be a surprisingly tough character who fights off the mutants with a sword. John Goodman, Jay Thomas, and Jon Polito also have minor roles.

Twixt (2011)


Francis Ford Coppola made some of the greatest films of the 1970s. The Godfather (parts I and II), The Conversation, and Apocalypse Now rank as some of the best films ever made. He seems to have struggled in the decades since, his output has been spotty at best. Over the last twenty years or so he’s made very few films and all of them have been independently financed. Still, he is a director worth paying attention to. I watched Twixt back in 2013, wrote this review, and haven’t thought about it since.

Reading that review now, even though I more or less panned the film, makes me want to watch it again. The story sounds pretty cool, and it is sometimes fun to revisit a film you didn’t like years ago to see if the changes in your own life affect the way you see the film now.